13 Questions with George Anderson

by HST UK on May 31, 2011

George Anderson is Poet and Lit Critic. This interview was plagued by the distractions of Modern Life, but despite this it works. Read on gentle readers of HST…..

HST: Back in April you reviewed Bukowski’s ‘Last Night of the Earth Poems’ on your blog. The collection in my humble opinion is Buk’s strongest, and whenever somebody asks me about where to start with Bukowski poetry wise I recommend that book. My trouble with Bukowski is that arguably he has created a glass ceiling in ‘underground poetry’ that nobody will ever be able to break through, is Buk’s legacy a gift to modern poetry or a curse to those poets who have followed him?

Bukowski was a highly over-rated poet but his influence has been huge in the underground community. When you read his stuff it explores a relatively limited space but his writing is a living thing and not bound by middle class notions of what a poem can or cannot be. Bukowski makes it look easy. In a way his legacy has been a curse especially on-line because he has encouraged an infinite array of inept imitators. Many just want to out-buk the man by writing about their sorry-assed lives. Usually their writing rings false – their hyperbolic tales of drinking and fucking cartoon-like- without the great man’s wonderful humour or humanity.

HST: Your poem ‘Too Good’ sums up the internet poetry scene of the last decade, in which networking has played a big part in many poets establishing themselves, sometimes leading to a ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ situation which has resulted in a dilution of ‘quality’ work. It is a defiant piece that rejects approval. Having said that you are a poet that posts a great detail of content online, so do you care about what others think of your work?

According to Google that Strangeroad poem is the most read amongst the poems I currently have on-line. I think it was written in 2005 and probably in response to a rejection to a submission I made to the Australia Council for funding for a poetry project. I can’t recall the specifics of their letter but they mentioned the merit of my proposal was 49%, an increase from 37% the year before. The poem is written in a bitter, dismissive angry tone. I haven’t submitted to ‘em since. They either seem to like flowery descriptive work about abstract scenery or dreary fag cut & paste.

Over the years, I’ve belonged to many writing groups in Australia such as The South Coast Writers’ Centre, The Poet’s Union and Poetry Australia Foundation & others. I have met dozens of genuine, good-hearted people and we have sat around and discussed our work together intelligently for hundreds of hours. Yet when I reflect back on the experiences, I realise that I learnt fuck all, or at least anything new, from other poets about my poetry or where it was headed. Too much time was devoted to explaining & exploring the work of our group of poets- many of whom were obviously deranged and who used poetry as an excuse to vent their bile. Perhaps in the end the poet must go it alone. Of course, I care about what my readers think about my poetry but if they aren’t willing to fork out the cash to buy it, the question remains- why continue?

HST: As a critic, what irritates you most when you read poetry books?

With my blog BOLD MONKEY I recently turned my hand at writing reviews of mostly cutting edge underground poetry books. Mainly to see if I could string a sentence or two together to explain images and ideas of writers who were largely ignored by mainstream critics. I have taught literature to senior high school students for over many years but have usually been too busy to write criticism myself. I highly admire poets of the street and my main intention is to try to add some credibility to their voices.

I really hate it when I find a book of poetry weighing more than a kilo in a second-hand shop. Usually from the nineteenth century when the masses actually read books. I guess I would feel jealous at how highly revered poets were then.

HST: I remember interviewing you back in 2008 for Gloom Cupboard; summarize what you’ve been up to in the last three years?

I work full time as an English/History teacher in a large public high school in Sydney and that takes up most of my energy. I teach mostly Year 11 & 12 students. I particularly enjoy supervising the English Extension 2 course which allows students to create a collection of short stories or poems or a critical analysis of a specific writer or period. But I don’t really like talking about school that much because I am immersed in it on a daily basis. I love my job and I feel extremely privileged to be in the position I am in.

I have a number of side projects going. My upper primary school chap book ‘Melting Voices’ should be published this month. Perspicacious Books have a handle on it. Interior Noise Press approached me for a book & ‘Juggling the Broken Mirror’ should be out soon. LAWW Media are to film and release two more videos of my poetry. A novel is also in the making, provided I can find more time to think.

HST: When I read your chapbook ‘Dancing On Thin Ice’ I enjoyed the unique characters in your poems. Tell me who your favourite characters are in literature, television and film?

I tend to like outsiders on the margins of society who challenge conventions and who advocate more personal freedom. Characters like Raskolnikov in Dostoyevsky’s Crime & Punishment or McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. More recently, the complex morally repugnant Swearington in Deadwood intrigues me. But I don’t have many heroes. People are liars, cowards, sleaze-bags, morons- but are sometimes still capable of great acts of generosity, forgiveness & wisdom. ‘Hero’ denotes cardboard thoughts/ expectations.

HST: When I last questioned you, I remember you made mention of all the weird and wonderful jobs you’ve worked. I myself have had a similarly varied employment record, and consider the experiences I’ve acquired along the way to be conducive to creating fictional characters, without naming names, talk to me about the person in ‘real life’ that has become the perfect fictional character?

I’ve lived in Australia for many years but I often think about my childhood friends back in Canada- like Ten O’Clock and his older brother Toe (deceased) or Chopper, Pud, Crowbar, Rat, Woody, Buds, the Mechanic (deceased), Bubbles, the old man & several others. These guys have certainly shaped my working class view of things.

HST: As a citizen of the Commonwealth, what were your thoughts on the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton, were you like many other red blooded men enamoured by the derriere of Kate’s sister Pippa?

Sorry, I missed the wedding and have never heard of Pippa. A friend commented on how beautifully everything was done and sent me a nice photo below.

HST: Continuing talk of current affairs. Osama Bin Laden was recently shot and killed by U.S . Special Forces. The peculiar thing is the urge so many members of the general public have to see his dead body. Are we entering a new age of voyeurism?

People are always going to gawk at death, traffic accidents, or even grossly prepared meals such as those compiled by the mad blokes at Epic Meal Time. I suppose they are just seeking confirmation like the Birthers. Morally, I think Bin Laden should have been captured & put on trial. To resort to murder lowers the Americans to the assassins in El Queda.

HST: This morning before I went off to the gym I watched an episode of ‘Most Haunted’. The episode centred on the public house that the Bronte sisters brother Branwell used to frequent. Do you believe in ghosts?

No, but I have previously written about ghosts in my poetry. The best example being ‘the attic’ for Zygote in my Coffee. Next question.

HST: I was wondering if you buy a lot of second hand books, one of my favourite shopping pursuits is perusing through the shelves in charity shops, you can get some real bargains. The smell of an old book is intoxicating. Talk to me about the simple pleasures you get as a consumer of literature?

I like how the older I get the less chance I will purchase a book. I’ll go a bargain sales & find books like Kerouac’s ‘Lonesome Traveller’ or Andrew McGahan’s ‘PRAISE’. Now I only buy a book if I think I will read it before I die. That said, I have over a thousand unread books in my collection.

HST: I’ve gone off on a tangent somewhat in my line of questioning, maybe it’s because I’m so easily distracted. I just got a text message from a buddy of mine, then I quickly checked the football scores, and now I’m back trying to think of a question to ask. How do you cope with distraction, has it ever affected the writing process?

Yeah, I was lost to your rambling thoughts for a while. Some of your questions seem lost. For years I was ‘distracted’ by family and work. Now that I’ve actually started writing I regard everything as fuel for my writing. I don’t do facebook and only use a mobile for emergency purposes. I write when it prompts me but there is some much more living to do. You need significant interludes to more effectively hone your thoughts and impressions.

HST: Because I come from a conventionally dysfunctional family I have come to love the sitcom ‘Arrested Development’. It makes me laugh. What makes you laugh?

Fart jokes. Insanity. Hypocrisy. The quest for happiness. Game Show lives. Papal vestments. Fake humility. Self delusion. Well thought out creativity.

HST: This is turning into a bit of a getting to know you interview. What does your poetry reveal to the reader about George Anderson?



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