A   

Anne Caston

Poetry

Telephone: 907.786.4394
E-mail: anne.caston@gmail.com
Blog:    http://this-life-on-a-sandbar.blogspot.com/

 

 Biography

Anne is a former nurse, a writer and an educator whose work has been published in literary and medical journals here and abroad. She received a grant from St. Mary's Arts Council in 1994 and has been a featured writer twice on WPFW's "The Poet and the Poem" and was interviewed by Michael Collier for The Writer's Life  video series, broadcast over a tri-state television area (D.C., Maryland, and Virginia). Her work has recently been anthologized in collections such as The New American Poets: A Bread Loaf Anthology, Where Books Fall Open, Sustenance & Desire, and Long Journey: Contemporary Northwest Poets. A selection from Anne's poems was awarded Prairie Schooner's 2002 Readers' Choice Award  and her poem, "Purgatory," received a 2003 International Merit Award in Poetry  from Atlanta Review. Anne was the 1996-97 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Fellow in Poetry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was also the 1998-99 Jenny McKean Moore Fellow in Poetry at The George Washington University in Washington D.C. She was awarded a Bread Loaf fellowship in 1999, and was the recipient of the Paumanok Award in 1997. She was also the recipient of the 2005 and 2002 Excellence in Teaching Award from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The second edition of Anne's book, Judah's Lion, has just been released from Toad Hall Press (New Hampshire). Judah's Lion was recently reviewed in The Montserrat Review. She is currently working on a third collection of poems, The Empress of Longing, and a memoir, Deep Dixie: A Southerner's Take on Life, Love, Friendship, Romance, Faith, and Coming-of-Age Among Southern Bapists." Anne Caston earned a B.A. in Language and Literature from St. Mary's College of Maryland in 1993 and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College in 1995.

Publications

Anne Caston 's first collection of poems, Flying Out With The Wounded, was awarded the 1996 New York University Press Prize for Poetry. Anne is a former nurse, a writer and an educator whose work has been published in literary and medical journals here and abroad. She received a grant from St. Mary's Arts Council in 1994 and has been a featured writer twice on WPFW's "The Poet and the Poem" and was interviewed by Michael Collier for The Writer's Life video series, broadcast over a tri-state television area (D.C., Maryland, and Virginia). Her work has recently been anthologized in collections such as The New American Poets: A Bread Loaf Anthology, Where Books Fall Open, Sustenance & Desire, and Long Journey: Contemporary Northwest Poets. A selection from Anne's poems was awarded Prairie Schooner's 2002 Readers' Choice Award and her poem, "Purgatory," received a 2003 International Merit Award in Poetry from Atlanta Review.

In 1999, Anne received an Individual Artist Award from the National Endowment for the Arts and was the 1996-97 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Fellow in Poetry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was also the 1998-99 Jenny McKean Moore Fellow in Poetry at The George Washington University in Washington D.C. She was awarded a Bread Loaf fellowship in 1999, and was the recipient of the Paumanok Award in 1997. She was also the recipient of the 2005 and 2002 Excellence in Teaching Award from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Flying Out With the Wounded, 1997, New York University Press
Judah's Lion, 2009, Toad Hall Press
Interview: "The Poet and the Poem," Grace Cavalieri, from the Library of Congress (2009)
Videotape: "The Writing Life"--Anne Caston is interviewed by Michael Collier (1999)

Teaching Philosphy

Some years back, when I explained what I did for a living, a friend told me he felt that there are "three things no one can do." These three things, according to him, include not being able to make someone else love you, not being able to avoid your own death, and not being able to teach someone else to write. I told this man, for whom I have a great respect and affection, that I was getting decent pay and some good benefits for trying to do just that and, if he was correct in his assessment, then I was little more than a colossal academic scam-artist. So out of this provocation, I took up, once again, that old examination of what I do to earn a living and whether or not I believe I bring something valuable to the teaching/learning of writing, something beyond a pragmatic need I have to earn a paycheck and benefits.

For me, poetry and literature, the deeply-lived examined life, and the life of the imagination are inseparably connected to each other and to the work I do with graduate writers. I think this has much to do with my former vocation as a practical nurse, with those early experiences I had in human suffering and dying, and in coming to understand the greatnesses and limitations of medicine as an art and a science in attending to those deep human needs and experiences. I believe I might actually know, now, what is at stake.

There was, early on in my training, a human cadaver I was assigned to dissect with my lab partner, a young man studying to be a surgeon. After he and I had taken that cadaver down to its smallest identifiable parts, after we had bagged them and labeled them, it occurred to me that some of what we had found there could confirm the coroner's report: that he was a Caucasian male in his mid-thirties, that he had suffered trauma in a one-car accident and had been pronounced DOA at the site, that suicide could not be ruled out since he was traveling at a high speed and had not braked before his fatal collision with the tree. But during the dissection we had discovered something else, something not mentioned in the official paperwork of the man's death: in the man's brain, among the small bundled arteries known as the antereo-lateral ganglionic branches, the largest vessel had ruptured, pre-mortem, and had bled out into the surrounding tissues of the brain, including the area near Broca's, around the optic thalamus. In layman's terms, the man had suffered an aneurysm of the blood vessel which had blinded him. It was this temporary blindness which had, more likely than suicide , caused the accident and the resulting trauma which had brought him to our table.

My lab partner and I had sifted through a stranger's anatomical structures and had found ourselves squarely in the final moments of that man's life, imagining his last struggles and perhaps his terror. We had gone into that search open-minded, just looking at whatever might be there, and we had, in the process of that looking, acquired a knowledge: a knowledge which could not, ever, save that man, but one which did bring to us - and to his widow - the circumstances which had contributed to his death and how he'd come to die, not willfully, alone on that road.

My students sometimes ask me if I believe poetry can save the world. I admit, I don't think poetry can "save" anything. What I do believe is that it can send us - each of us, alone, individually - back into our deepest selves in some search of who and what we are, back into the desires and successes and failings of our lives and our world in such a way that we might access some means by which we can (as Aristotle and others have put it) know ourselves. And while that might not "save" us, it might yet redeem or salvage something human and humane in us.

Webster's defines art as "a nonscientific way of knowing, especially in the humanities." What I do, in the classroom and in thesis work, one-on-one with those who want to write, is to provide a hospitable environment and an opportunity for student writers to expand their abilities in the science (or craft) of writing, and to provide for students in the art an on-going nurturing of the art of writing, its very human, very fallible way of knowing. While three years may seem like sufficient time in which to develop these skills, it is hardly sufficient time for all that a student has learned to yet manifest itself. So I think of what I do here as a beginning and to keep doing that whole-heartedly has required that I develop a more long-range vision, something beyond a semester, or two semesters, or six semesters. I am always keenly aware that, while I may be equipping a writer with the tools for the journey, it is life and experience and loss and love and humility and curiosity which are the real teachers.

Writing poetry is good and difficult work and I am passionate about that and about the value of poetry. Educating writers is good and difficult work and I am passionate about that and believe in the value of that too.

Anne's "Must Read" list:

  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • For the Time Being by Annie Dillard
  • The Boys of My Youth by Jo Anne Beard
  • The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead
  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  • My Alexandria by Mark Doty
  • Germinal by Emile Zola
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
  • A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  • "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings" & "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World" by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez
  • A Good Man Is Hard To Find by Flannery O'Conner

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