I first became aware of the Scottish poetry journal Anon through some of the poets I follow on Twitter (most of whom I’ve included in my poetry list, which you can follow too here.

Anon is edited by poet and social media producer Colin Fraser and Peggy Hughes, who works at the wonderful Scottish Poetry Library.

One cool thing about Anon is its format, which is reminicent of those old Penguin Classic paperbacks.  The other is its completely anonymous submissions process.

The editors do not know the names of the poets whose work they are considering — and they never know the names of the poets they are rejecting.  As the Anon tagline proudly proclaims it, “We don’t care who you aren’t…”

I submitted a few poems to the magazine last year, including one poem I’d written in Alaska over a dozen years before called “Midnight Sun.”  The poem got picked and appeared in Anon 7.

Here’s what one reviewer, writing in the journal Sabotage, said about that issue of  Anon:

“Anon Seven is an effervescent production, its poems spanning the world: from Dave Coates’ transfigured, strangely threatening ‘Leith’ (on the magazine’s doorstep, since Anon is produced in Edinburgh), to the detailed, tender surveillance of Lake Illiamna, Alaska, which Scott Edward Anderson undertakes in ‘Midnight Sun’. Its strengths lie in variety, and particularly in the sheer invention and craft of certain poems – sometimes, even, of especially successful lines, such as the opening of Richard Moorhead’s ‘I Shot A Bird’, which breaks upon the reader with a brash insistence that ‘Everyone should try some killing’.”

Here is my poem, “Midnight Sun”:

 

Midnight Sun

at approximately 59° 45′ N Latitude, 154° 55′ W Longitude

 

Each night,

I watch the sun set

over Lake Illiamna

through the willows.

How physical,

the names of willows:

Bebb and Scouler,

feltleaf, arctic, undergreen—

names ill-suited for their frail appearance.

And how palpable the story,

told by the black-capped chickadee

about the four bears who come

each night to the village,

linger for a couple of hours,

then vanish.

As the bird now vanishes

from atop the satellite dish

outside the room at Gram’s B&B.

He leaves behind

a white remembrance,

which disturbs the signal

coming from Anchorage,

interrupting a program about

the formation of the Hawaiian Islands,

and sending ripples of multi-colored “snow”

swirling into TV screen volcanoes.

While back outside,

midsummer sun barely sets on the village,

angling over sparse willows

and spruce, bentgrass and sweetgale,

perhaps twinflower, although

verifying the presence of that species

may require a second look.

A second look, which the sun

will suggest, upon its return

four and one-half hours from now.

That is when the BLM surveyors arrive

on their ATVs (whatever the weather

and whether they’re foolish or clever),

to verify yesterday’s measurements,

as they do each morning,

in this village of willows

and midnight sun.

 

–Scott Edward Anderson

 

Order copies of Anon — or better yet, a subscription — here: Anon

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My poem, “The Poet Gene,”  received honorable mention in the 2011 ESRC Genomics Forum Poetry Competition announced this weekend.

The competition was co-sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council’s Genomics Network and the Scottish Poetry Library of Edinburgh.   The judges for the competition were Pippa Goldschmidt, Professor Steve Yearley, director of the ESRC Genomics Forum, Peggy Hughes, the communications officer at the Scottish Poetry Library, and poet Kona Macphee.

Writing about my poem, the judges said, “Understandably, most of the poems were serious, and so we particularly enjoyed the humour in one of the runners up, “Improving the Human: ‘The Poet Gene’,” a nicely self-referential poem which imagines the perhaps negative impact of genetic engineering upon poetry itself.”

Here is my poem

“The Poet Gene”

The gene for “poet” has likely been isolated,
somewhere in a lab in southern California.
And I wonder how close it is to the gene
that makes you crave potato chips
or the “coffee-drinker” gene, perhaps,
or the one that causes procrastination.
If they have the poet gene cornered
in a Petri dish, will they admonish it
for all the bad poems ever written,
however unwittingly?
Would it improve the human
to have the poet gene spliced
into fruit or beef – or even bacon?
Poetry-enhanced bacon. Now that’s
genetic modification one can get behind!
Perhaps it can be modified by the reader gene,
increasing the number of poetry readers.
Oh, but what if it went “aft agley”?
What if this innocent experiment turned wicked?
Think of it, more bad poems by more bad poets—
(Increased productivity isn’t always a good thing.)
Perhaps this poem is, in fact, one of them,
a mutated, altered, monster poem
waiting to grab you by the throat and…Ahem.
Think of the sheer volume of bad poetry
overtaking the world, smothering us;
entire forests decimated for paper
upon which these poems are printed
or hundreds of iPhone apps built
to accommodate a staggering number of poems
cranked out by “GMPs” (genetically modified poets)
careering and MFAing all over the place.
Undoubtedly, someone will decide to splice
the poet gene from one poet into another. Then what?
Talk about trouble: one side striving for simplicity;
the other deliberately obtuse and indirect.
No, best leave the poet gene out of even this poem;
rather, focus on how to make potato chip consumption
actually slimming to the human figure, especially
when consumed with large quantities of your favorite ale
and generous servings of bacon.

–Scott Edward Anderson

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Crafted in the form of a double helix and addressing the issue of cloning, “Forward Deck” by Edinburgh writer, Sophie Cooke, was awarded first prize in the ESRC Genomics Forum Poetry Competition.

Kona Macphee (poet and competition judge) joined Sophie and fellow poets, Russell Jones (3rd Prize) and Katie Gooch (honourable mention), as they presented public readings of their work at the Scottish Poetry Library on Saturday 29 January 2011.

Hosted in partnership with the Scottish Poetry Library, the competition received over 200 entries from writers inspired to consider how work in the field of genomics, including DNA profiling, personalised medicine and stem cell research, is helping society by “improving the human”.

Congratulating all the winners Professor Steve Sturdy, Deputy Director of the ESRC Genomics Forum, said, “A decade since the first mapping of the human genome was hailed as the start of a new era, we are still coming to terms with the implications of these advances. Our winning poems highlight this sense of uncertainty surrounding genetic technologies and the role they might play in ‘improving the human’ and, we hope they will encourage others to explore their own views on these important issues.”

“Poetry can be a powerful communication form,” commented Pippa Goldschmidt, Genomics Forum Writer in Residence was the inspiration behind the competition. “Our winner, Sophie Cooke, used a compelling and disturbing visual metaphor to address the issue of cloning in ‘Forward Deck’. Many poems found inspiration in the idea that humanity is in our imperfections and the second placed poem, ‘Digital’, by Nina Boyd, illustrated this idea beautifully. In third place, ‘Chromosome Medley’ by Russell Jones offers readers an energetic imagining of the impact of genetic choice on the past, present and future.”

“We’re delighted that genomics provided such an exciting topic of inspiration,” said Peggy Hughes, Communications Officer at the Scottish Poetry Library and a judge for the competition.  “The variety in subject matter, together with diverse poetic styles, and the global perspectives offered by writers from America, New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Uganda and India, combined to make judging difficult but hugely rewarding.”

For more information, including all of the winning poems and honourable mentions: ESRC Genomics Network

[From Press Release]

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