Michael Anania reads his poetry and comments on the craft and teaching of poetry. Conversation with Creative Writing majors and all members of the campus community. Public welcome.
Michael Anania was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on 5 August 1939. His mother, Dora, was born in Oldenburg, Germany, and his father, Angelo, who died when Anania was nine, was born in Omaha to parents from the southern Italian province of Calabria. Tuberculosis made it impossible for Angelo to hold a steady job, and Anania grew up in an Omaha housing project. Anania’s fascination with his father, who survived by odd jobs, card dealing, and street wisdom and who never left the house without a gun, is reflected in The Red Menace. Both the father and the gun make repeated appearances in Anania’s poetry, notably in “Temper” in The Color of Dust (1970) and “Reeving” in Riversongs (1978). “Reeving” depicts Angelo as “the dying gambler in black / coughing into his cards / or oiling the blue sheen / of his stub revolver.”
In the afterword to his first book, the 1969 New Poetry Anthology, Michael Anania wrote, “There is little evidence that modernism is dead or even dying. The tradition of Pound, Eliot, Williams, Stevens and their contemporaries is very much alive.” Anania’s importance as a poet lies in how he preserves and develops this modernist tradition in American poetry. A deep commitment to modernism and the tradition of experimental, often difficult, poetry that flows from modernism has informed Anania’s career as poet, editor, essayist, and novelist from its beginning to the present day. Anania’s poetry draws its energies from a wide range of modernist sources; it shows the influence of William Carlos Williams in its emphasis on concrete particulars and American places and the influence of Wallace Stevens in its speculative, philosophical lyricism.
Anania has also shown a strong commitment to modernism and its traditions as an editor with Audit (later Audit/Poetry) from 1962 to 1967, Partisan Review from 1974 to 1975, the Swallow Press from 1967 to 1974, and Tri-Quarterly since 1976.
His essays, many of which are collected in In Plain Sight: Obsessions, Morals and Domestic Laughter (1991), include some of the most insightful insider’s views of American literary publishing available today as well as sensitive treatments of many poets whose work lies outside the American mainstream. The 1984 autobiographical novel The Red Menace also shows Anania’s modernist and experimentalist allegiances in its deliberately disjointed and digressive narrative structure. Of the Omaha schools where he was educated, Anania has said, “Standing up and saying you were a poet would be a little bit like standing up and saying you were a target.” Nevertheless, Anania developed an interest in poetry early and carried it with him first to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, where he studied from 1957 to 1958, and later to the Municipal University of Omaha (now the Omaha campus of the University of Nebraska), where he completed his undergraduate studies. As an undergraduate Anania wrote poetry as well as plays and stories modeled on Jean-Paul Sartre, edited the campus literary magazine (the first step on a distinguished editorial career), admired existentialism, and was, in his own words, “thrilled by anything complicated and remote.”