Getting to know andrew K. peterson and his new book Anonymous Bouquet

Available now from Spuyten Duyvil Press

Andrew K. Peterson is a poet, teacher, and editor who lives in the Boston area. He is the author of three poetry collections: Anonymous Bouquet (Spuyten Duyvil, 2015), some deer left the yard moving day (BlazeVox, 2013), and Museum of Thrown Objects (BlazeVox, 2010). His chapbook bonjour meriwether and the rabid maps (Fact-Simile Press, 2011) was featured in an exhibition of poets’ maps at The Univ. of Arizona’s Poetry Center. His work is anthologized in Emergency Index 2012 (Ugly Duckling Presse), 4000 WORDS 4000 DEAD (Kora Press, curated by poet Jennifer Karmin), and RISD Museum’s The Earth Archives exhibition (curated by poet Danielle Vogel). Peterson is a cofounder/editor of summer stock, a small poetry journal. 

Andrew K. Peterson is a poet, teacher, and editor who lives in the Boston area. He is the author of three poetry collections: Anonymous Bouquet (Spuyten Duyvil, 2015), some deer left the yard moving day (BlazeVox, 2013), and Museum of Thrown Objects (BlazeVox, 2010). His chapbook bonjour meriwether and the rabid maps (Fact-Simile Press, 2011) was featured in an exhibition of poets’ maps at The Univ. of Arizona’s Poetry Center. His work is anthologized in Emergency Index 2012 (Ugly Duckling Presse), 4000 WORDS 4000 DEAD (Kora Press, curated by poet Jennifer Karmin), and RISD Museum’s The Earth Archives exhibition (curated by poet Danielle Vogel). Peterson is a cofounder/editor of summer stock, a small poetry journal. 

When did you first encounter poetry? How did you discover that you wanted to write poems?
I started writing poetry in high school – what I thought were song lyrics, mostly. I couldn’t sing, or play an instrument, so what I was writing became poems. I don’t exactly remember what my feeling about poetry was then. I remember I liked reading it, because it had that emotion right on the surface of the language. I loved how much weight each word had on the page, like a heavy, musical structure. I remember our poetry textbook with heavy, ivory pages that dark black italicized letters. The words in the poems felt tangible, they never had in prose. But I was pretty bored by the works they’d make us read in school.

My Junior year, I had become friends with a group of artists and musicians. I thought they were so cool, but I was very shy and I would mostly sit and listen to them. I was never sure why they let me hang around, but they did and were inclusive, and nice. One of my cool friends was in my English class. I had a crush on her. We had to write a term paper on a poet, and we got to choose who we wrote about. When it came time to choose, our teacher recommended Lawrence Ferlinghetti to my friend, but she chose Langston Hughes instead. So when it came to my turn, I chose Ferlinghetti. I’d never heard of him before, but I liked the sound of his name. It sounded exotic and interesting – way more interesting than Robert Frost – and, of course, because my teacher had recommended it to my friend. I read A Coney Island of the Mind, and that book inspired me that you could be more spontaneous and contemporary in poetry. I liked that.

 Do you have a writing routine? A favorite time or place to write?
I don’t have a writing routine. I’d say my favorite time is any time I have the time to feel spontaneous and free. I like to keep my notebook handy to jot ideas and lines that come to me on walks. I think the physicality of walking, breathing, and seeing new things around is a big help, to remind me that I’m in my body and a part of this world. I’m also really inspired by the visual arts. The Museum of Fine Arts is my “third place” right now; I write a lot there, not just about the artwork on display, but I also like seeing people experiencing the art and the museum space. 

 Where do your poems most often come from—an image, a sound, a phrase, an idea?
Inspiration could and does come from any and all of these four elements you mention. The way I experience each moment is unique, and I try to reflect that difference and variety in the way I’m inspired to write each poem. 

Which writers (living or dead) do you feel have influenced you the most?
Anonymous Craigslist posts. In Anonymous Bouquet I have a poem called “Mist Connects” which is a collage of anonymous Craigslist Missed Connections entries from around New Year’s Day, 2011. I wanted to collectivize voices from around the globe, to see how we were all negotiating New Year’s Eve revelry, day-after hangovers, regrets, yearning and resolutions.

Two years after an excerpt of the poem was published online, I was contacted by the journal’s editor. A reader left a note in the comments section to the poem claiming to have written one of the anonymous posts which I had used. I was worried they might be upset, but they expressed gratitude to me for including their words, for salvaging their entry – which was very personal and meaningful – when it would have been erased from this ephemeral forum. We shared a nice correspondence, swapping stories of the circumstances behind our writing, now bound by the collectively anonymous. This was a lesson for me, a reminder of the power that a piece of writing can have as a marker of memory, as a conduit for connection. Also, how even an anonymous act retains a mark of an individual’s humane and unique personality.   

 Tell us a little bit about your new collection: what's the significance of the title? are there over-arching themes? what was the process of assembling it? was it a project book? etc.
The title Anonymous Bouquet solidified after the Missed Connections incident I just described. I’ve also always been taken by the image of a familiar and unfortunately all-too-common image, the roadside/site memorial. It’s that collectivized, elegiac public gathering, wordless, a lyric I was trying after in this collection (but with words, of course). There are four sections in the book, each one has its own feel, with lyric, collage, elegy, occasional poems, and meditative work mixed in.

As way of furthering that anonymous gesture, I’ve been wrapping copies of the book with flower bouquets and leaving them in public places, such as at bus stops and park benches. I hope that someone might find the ‘book-quet’, take it home, have it brighten their day. 

Read sample poems from Anonymous Bouquet and watch a recording here:

On Gertrude Stein’s Birthday
(with some words by Charlotte Seley)

I forget if I was you or you were so much more than what I used to be
standing on the head of a pin you have pinned your pin to my pin with
Blue Rondo à la Turk from when we were still first rate
what eclipsesalso escapes. Hats off to another navy in the name

I used to be but now I am     Frankenstein     Ho Chi Minh   
the Djelimady Rumba  to this green sea dance floor or are you just pretending
as we ease a stealthy moon plane on the Hudson
from the misremembered past, the unvoiced voice you voice

friend of a friend of a friend, sun in the eyes of a hive
So much for rococo seaweed spark with stingers for an off switch
the whole orchestra of torts strung with wild lavender
a palanquin of expectation and delay stalled just behind the float
So much for boiled bouquets between healing & windows the moon falls in
the repin of the pin I have pinned my pin to your pin with  

Wedding Light
after Chagall

“We dance exiled before the clock”
Pushkin steps a pin upon our heads
This – a world – so full of lovers,
feathers, candelabra, wooden legs!

Cockerel acrobats adorn the ring
A fiddler’s swinging – serrated moon
The donkey waltzes with a somber trout
Neptune eyes the drunken groom –

The gypsy’s pocket’s full of borscht
Watch out, horse!  Don’t burn your mane!
First cha-cha’s with the bride, of course:
Denied a chance, the phoenix: aflame!

“We dance exiled before the clock”
With spinning arms she still takes hold  
Bella!  – Wife! – Hold me close to shield
From ticking light – our hair grows old    

“We dance exiled before the clock”
Quiet now – ascend – so tired
Music, yes!  Fiddled thighs
Swim the skies and set the bed afire