English and Creative Writing teacher Amy Andersen has been writing poetry as long as she can remember. She reminisced on a second grade memory of when she brought one of her poems to show her teacher and since then she has written hundreds to thousands of poems. Andersen went on to get one of her poems, “She Stole the British Romantics,” published by her college professor, Robert Stewart, in UMKC’s literary magazine New Letters. Poetry has become a big part of the way Andersen copes with the things that life throws her way.
Q: What is your favorite thing about poetry?
A: I’ve heard poetry described before as being distilled prose, which means you take out everything unessential and it’s boiled down to this pure level of imagery. I like how poems celebrate life and all of its richness in a very condensed way. I don’t know if I have a favorite, but I love “Birches” by Robert Frost, and most recently, Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day.” My favorite poet is probably Rainer Maria Rilke because he’s so soulful.
Q: What is your main influence for your writing?
A: Life. Living life. I think poems dive into life’s major issues. Beyond life itself, obviously reading. I have been a reader my whole life. I read The New York Times over my morning coffee and usually have a book going on in a few different categories all at once. Including, classics, contemporary fiction, literary nonfiction, and poetry.
Q: What topics do you bring into your writing?
A: A lot of my poems are more personal in nature so my poems have followed the currents of my life. A lot dealing with relationships, love [and] loss. I’m a perfectionist, so some of them deal with perfectionism and learning to embrace life in its messiness.
Q: How do you think poetry influences people’s lives?
A: There is this feeling of reading a poem and recognizing something you know and experience or want to experience, that kind of connection itself is something enjoyable and meaningful. I think a lot of people think they hate poetry and maybe just haven’t found the right poet or type of poetry.
Q: What does writing poetry do for you?
A: At least for me – and I feel this is true for a lot of people – it’s one way we express the things that are inside. Even if [poetry] doesn’t fix life it still helps us deal with it and sometimes make sense of [our lives]. Poetry also helped me deal with sickness, relationships that don’t work out, frustration with the mundane routines of daily life, exc. On the other hand, I do love to use poetry to celebrate the good in life.
Read some of Andersen’s poems below.
They bloom on Meyer Boulevard, where sidewalks invite
like the broad shoulders of a friend, where trees have held
their breaths all day, waiting to see you, and now rustle hello.
So much beauty, and while cruelty is no illusion, unfolds
as readily as these hydrangeas in sinister blooms, this beauty
is my reality–removed from ISIS, from police brutality
and school shootings, from the child with no shoes
who will not sleep tonight. For how long
have I carried and fed myself with guilt
as if it would nourish his aching, taut belly.
May I ingest this hydrangea instead?
May I, can I, leave my guilt behind
like an old snake skin, like an outgrown cocoon,
and behold beauty–become beauty
as tender as a petal but as strong as Hope,
as strong as these trees that rise above and give
to a hurting wanderer in a shadowed world.
ORANGE AT MIDNIGHT
You trudge into the kitchen,
open the fridge, and consider
the orange on the middle shelf.
The orange completes the day
that yours was not. Lush and cool,
it has no complaints, no headache.
Because your day was dulled
with phone calls and burnt coffee,
and you heard that song you hate
for the ninetieth time on the drive home,
you’re afraid to eat the orange.
Its succulence might drown you.
You steal into bed—
yet you imagine its murder
on your fingertips.
SHE STOLE THE BRITISH ROMANTICS
from me, faded volume resting
on a coffee shop chair.
She was two years old,
eyes wide and glass-blue.
I did not stop her.
How could I resist
picturing her about town:
at the breakfast table, forming
iambs with Apple Jacks,
or in a sanctuary, singing
“Kubla Khan” from the pew,
or skipping through
a stately pleasure-dome
with caves of ice,
from her sippy-cup,
on translucent walls.