Daniel Anderson says he writes every day. Some days are good days, some aren’t. Regardless, he sets a goal of three hours of writing every morning.
“I’m very slow at composing,” Anderson says. “And it goes in cycles. The older I get, the more I understand that and kind of relax into it.”
Anderson says when he is relaxed his ideas tend to flow best. But upheaval in his life does not bring inspiration, he says, and the past six months have been full of big changes. He moved to Birmingham from Ohio to take a position as associate professor of English, and he recently married.
Now that his life is settling down, though, he says ideas are beginning to flow.
“Chaos does not really lend itself to any kind of productivity in my life,” he says. “I know in some people it does, but for me, if I have a doctor’s appointment Monday, I’m pretty much shot for the whole day.”
Anderson was hired this past summer because he’s a great teacher and writer of poetry. He also knows a little history, too.
One of his favorite stories is about Rowan Oak, the home purchased by William Faulkner in 1930 and later restored by the University of Mississippi. For years there was no curator for the home; anyone who wanted to visit went to the school library, asked for a key and went to explore the grand estate.
The school decided to upgrade the home after a curator was hired. They re-wallpapered Faulkner’s bedroom – complete with recreated water stains. There was wallpaper left over, so what did they do?
“Faulkner kept his telephone in the foyer and he used to write all of his phone messages on the wall,” Anderson says. “They decided to wall paper the foyer and covered all of Faulkner’s notes.”
Anderson knows this bit of trivia due to his fondness for Faulkner’s writings. “His fiction always has been important to me,” Anderson says. Faulkner is one of several influences for Anderson. Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, Philip Larkin and Richard Wilbur are his immediate influences.
“Those are the four voices I often hear when I’m writing,” Anderson says. “I’m always reading Shakespeare and Dickinson. Thomas Hardy also is one of my favorites.”
Creative writing is his specialty; he has written two books, Drunk in Sunlight and January Rain. He’s also edited The Selected Poems of Howard Nemerov, who was a two-time poet laureate and winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
January Rain, won the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize, and Anderson has won other honors, including a listing in The Best American Poetry 1998 and the Pushcart Prize for the poem Thorns. Thistles.
Drunk in Sunlight, which is available for purchase, is his most recent book. American Poet’s review of the book said Anderson’s “poems are lusciously detailed, and his voice is fully developed.”
Anderson remembers his time as a student as one of inconsistency.
He studied English as an undergraduate at the University of Cincinnati under Professor Andrew Hudgins, a native Alabamian who has become a close friend. Anderson says he struggled as an English major in the traditional sense. Hudgins’ creative writing class enabled him to look at literature from a different point of view.
“I think creative writing is a way for people to read books without thinking they are something they just need to unconditionally revere,” he says. “It lets them bring a critical sensibility to the reading process.”
Anderson enjoys reading literature – he says it helps fuel his creative writing and is the basis of his teaching. “Some people think they want to learn to express themselves and then they get into a creative writing class and realize it’s a little bit more complex than that,” Anderson says. “It’s not just a matter of writing your feelings, but rather constructing artificial ways of eliciting emotions out of other people.”
Anderson has been impressed with his students during his first semester at UAB. He has a workshop in his creative writing class, and everyone’s work is discussed. Everyone “gets a rigorous going over,” he says, but the spirit of the workshop is social.
And the diverse student body he has encountered has enriched his teaching.
“It’s not just a culturally diverse student body, but socio-economically diverse as well,” he says. “It makes for an exciting teaching environment.