The poems in this collection meet at the intersection of childhood innocence and North American injustice. As a longtime journalist, teacher, and advocate for language access, Anderson writes as witness about the lives of immigrants, children, people of color, and the poor.
She slides over
the hot upholstery
of her mother’s car,
this schoolgirl of fifteen
who loves humming & swaying
with the radio.
Her entry into womanhood
will be like all the other girls’ —
a cigarette and a joke
as she strides up with the rest
to the brick factory
where she’ll sew rag rugs
from textile strips of Kelly green,
bright red, aqua.
When she enters,
and the millgate closes
final as a slap,
there’ll be silence.
She’ll see fifteen high windows
cemented over to cut out light.
Inside, a constant, deafening noise
and warm air smelling of oil,
the shifts continuing on . . .
All day she’ll guide cloth along a line
of whirring needles, her arms & shoulders
rocking back & forth
with the machines —
200 porch-sized rugs behind her
before she can stop
to reach up, like her mother,
and pick the lint
out of her hair.
Listen to “Strange & Beautiful Heart,” “Emollient,” “Lessons,” and “The Name of a Tree,” read by Catherine Anderson:
Listen to “The Life of Wood” and “Wonderland” (from The Work of Hands) and “Attach” (from Anderson’s book Woman with a Gambling Mania, Mayapple Press, 2014), read by Catherine Anderson at Perugia Press’s 20th anniversary celebration at Smith College on November 12, 2016:
“Catherine Anderson’s project—exploring the individual in community—powers this collection. Through the voices of midwife, mill worker, scholarship girl, and teacher, she illustrates how we sustain ourselves against forces that could crush us.” —Robin Becker
“Catherine Anderson’s poetry personifies and personalizes our politics…The characteristic Anderson poem…opens our hearts.” —www.frigatezine.com
“This is an exquisite collection of poetry, written out of a quiet bravery.” —The Women’s Times
“Anderson touches something deeper than pride or heroism…she shapes image-rich narratives that convince all the way along in the details. Anderson’s poems read like stories, then linger like music.” —Daily Hampshire Gazette
“Catherine Anderson’s poems mark the spot where the child is pulled from dreams and made to grapple with the violence of war, bigotry, greed. These are not poems of abstraction; the poet slides our hand across the hot car upholstery, makes us touch the bullet marks in the sugar palms and feel the pace of the mills’ needles.” —Almitra David