Cynthia Anderson discusses decoders, saving the environment, and writing with a broken arm.
The Coil: Describe your writing style to someone who’s never read you.
Cynthia Anderson: Nature Girl, amazed that she is still here, tries to make sense of what she sees and what has happened to her. I try to tell stories with deep attention to sound, the music of language.
How would The New York Times categorize your writing?
What was the catalyst that made you start writing?
A broken arm when I was three years old. Not being able to write made writing important. I had broken my left arm and was left-handed — I was so impatient that I learned to write with my right hand.
Your favorite —
Whisk(e)y: Make mine lemonade.
Wild animal: All the birds and animals of the Mojave desert.
Waffle topping: When I was a kid, brown sugar. It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten waffles.
Poem: Too many to count, but here’s one: “Elegy for a Walnut Tree” by W. S. Merwin.
Scientist or inventor: Walter Macomber, my great-grandfather, who invented a rotary engine.
Broadway musical: West Side Story.
Badass getaway vehicle: All-terrain Jeep.
Movie to watch alone: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.
Quote: “The pen is mightier than the sword. So in this dangerous world, I always carry a pen.” — Ashleigh Brilliant
Tell us about your favorite books or authors.
A few of many favorites: Primitive by George Oppen; On the Motion and Immobility of Douve by Yves Bonnefoy; Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle; The Moon before Morning by W. S. Merwin; When the Big Wind Comes by Enid Osborn; Dream Work and White Pine by Mary Oliver; The Captain’s Verses by Pablo Neruda; Winter Morning Walks by Ted Kooser; Transformations by Anne Sexton. I very much admire Olio by Tyehimba Jess and Whereas by Layli Long Soldier.
If you could witness or participate in any historical event or time period, what would it be?
The Pleistocene era in Southern California.
Which underrepresented cause do you want to bring to our attention?
Saving the Salton Sea.
Weapon of choice:
If you could invent something that is missing from your life, what would it be?
A magic decoder ring so I could understand everything the birds and animals are saying.
The perfect soundtrack to your writing:
Which literary figure, dead or alive, would you want to —
Take tea with: Jane Austen.
Arm wrestle: Harold Bloom.
Ice skate with: Anne Carson.
Drink under the table: Jhumpa Lahiri (we’d be drinking chai).
Get a blurb from: Marie Howe.
Beat in a duel of wits: Matthew Zapruder.
Have on your side in the apocalypse: Walt Whitman.
Write your next book for you: That’s my job, and I’m sticking to it.
The one thing in your writing routine you couldn’t live without:
Large blocks of uninterrupted time. I’m retired and grateful to have that now.
Set the perfect scene for you to write your next masterpiece.
Wherever I go, there I am. But, I would love to visit Iceland and write about the landscape.
When writing makes you rich, you will:
Save my corner of the planet from further environmental degradation.
CYNTHIA ANDERSON lives in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, and she is the author of: Waking Life, In the Mojave, Desert Dweller, Mythic Rockscapes / Barker Dam, Mythic Rockscapes / Hidden Valley, and Shared Visions I and II. Find her at her website.