The Story of My Book: Catherine Anderson

Published periodically, “The Story of My Book” posts bring our collections to life through a series of five questions we ask all of our poets that highlight what makes every book unique and why Perugia is the right home for each of them (and may be for you and your book too).

Catherine Anderson on The Work of Hands (Perugia, 2000)

1. What was the genesis of your Perugia book?

The Work of Hands was genuinely the work of years. The poems germinated over time as my perspective and experiences shifted, keeping me honest (I hope), and not rushed. Although I resist quantifying an exact timetable, I’d say as long as was needed—years to grasp the threads throughout the poems and the themes compelling me forward. I believe in the slow method. Poetry can have a long shelf life if care is taken; that’s just my feeling. Later some poems appeared to cluster as one large poem, as in the second section. And then more work of sequencing and titling. It takes a while to see the forest for the trees. Editor Susan Kan was instrumental in helping me get this book ready for final publication.  

2. How did you find out about Perugia Press?

I heard through the feminist grapevine that Susan Kan was looking for manuscripts by women poets as she continued on the brave journey to publish only women who had written a first or second book. This was my second book, and was I fortunate to find Perugia and Susan. The press was still new, and over a period three years, had published outstanding books by Janet E. Aalfs, Almitra David, and Gail Thomas. All have made a lasting impression on me.

3. Can you describe an experience that confirmed Perugia Press was a good fit for you?

The book was handled with such care and professionalism, I was sure of its future. Susan Kan made it possible for the book to receive some media attention, and for me to give readings, etc. The Perugia community was small back then, but very warm and welcoming; I felt an immediate link to not only the book, but also a shared commitment to the longevity and success of this wonderful press. One of the previous authors, the magnificent poet, Almitra David, wrote a blurb for my book that captured just what I had intended. I was honored, and knew my book was in good hands.

4. How have you changed as a poet, writer, or creative person since your book came out?

The Perugia publication inspired confidence in me to send my poems into the world more forthrightly, and to stand behind the poetic I was trying to achieve. I was also compelled to work even harder in poetry. It’s always important to challenge your previous ideas about your art, to shatter your pre-conceived perceptions and simply try new things, read new things, turn your head upside down every once in a while. I felt freer to do that, as well.

5. Other than poetry, what moves and motivates you? 

For the last 19-plus years I have worked in the field of spoken language interpretation and translation in collaboration with new refugee and immigrant communities. The right to language access is protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. My feelings for this work are deep seated, rooted in social justice. This work may seem like a far cry from the practice of poetry and the engagement with literature. However, both are similar—embedded in language and quick transactions of meaning, yet functioning behind the scenes. Language—any language, including the language of poetry is mercurial—it can change in a flash, and interpreters, like poets, are un-sung spirits keeping the language alert, alive, symbolic, accurate, truthful, beautiful.

Anderson’s latest book, a memoir, published by Wising Up Press (2022)
Anderson’s latest poetry collection, published by Woodley Press (2019)