Publication Date: July 2018
Book Description: The augurs of ancient Rome were charged with studying natural phenomena, like the flight habits of birds, in order to look for propitious or unfavorable omens. The poems in Augur are attempts, in prescribed and open forms, to “decode” the signs of a world in the midst of tremendous and often bewildering upheaval. Written from the interlocking perspectives of father, husband, son, brother, educator, and citizen, the poetry in Augur seeks to engage life with clarity. Many of the poems are charged with the energies of the natural world, including the patterns of bird flight the augurs once looked to, not as an escape, but as a source of information and insight. Ultimately, we must inscribe the signs with meaning and reject the small priesthoods and corrupt officials who claim all vision (and power).
"Jon Andersen is a poet with an unshakeable commitment to social justice. His omens and prophecies go beyond denunciation to embrace resistance, passing this spirit of resistance on to the next generation. His vision is sweeping, even global, from Pakistan to Greece, from Serbia to Honduras, casting his lot with the damned wherever he finds himself, whether he condemns the drone strikes of a Democratic administration or reports on the murder of activist Berta Cáseres by the military in a place forgotten by the world. His tonal range is likewise impressive: he is capable of gentle humor and philosophical reflection, but also summons up a furious curse poem for Governor Snyder of Michigan and his role in poisoning the water supply of Flint. The luminous moments are here in these poems; the auguries are here in these poems; now it is incumbent on the rest of us to pay attention and take action." – Martín Espada, author of Vívas to Those Who Have Failed
"Andersen is a true poet, a modern-day augur who can read the signs (literally) and reveal the most lyrical of truths. He reads the natural world and the natural movements of people in motion. He exposes the unnatural movements of the self-proclaimed masters of the universe while lifting up the heroes and martyrs who made their dreams collective property. His poems strike blows against everything that is killing us, and recall memories of everything that gives us life..." – Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original
"The poems in Jonathan Andersen’s Augur imagine, resist, teach, and transport—always a reckoning. From “State Forest” on, we’re aware that his is no ordinary voice: “Water with its memory/and prophecy of ice. Granite. Blood-/brown steel staining a concrete boulder/from last century’s bridge. July, and a maple/leaf already turned, red, a desperate raft/ A great blue heron stands upstream./ He shares this world with us.” Lines that penetrate and encompass our built and natural planet—with all its devastations, oppressions, and startling beauty—propel us into recognition, awaken us from political claustrophobia and the stupor of the everyday slog. In this collection, we encounter compassion, exaltation, rage, love, and clear-eyed analysis. Forged in the crucible of working class origins, legacies of the Vietnam War, the classroom, marriage, fatherhood, the “mosquito whine” of drone attacks, and disappearing wild places, these necessary poems have sweep and grace. They cast their gaze backward and forward, and conjure a way to stay present in a world too often unforgiving. Like the narrator of “One Man Band,” in reading Augur, we come to deeply know that “everything’s connected.” This book makes me grateful to be alive." – Alison Meyers, Executive Director, I-Park Foundation
"Jon Andersen’s mature, passionately human voice speaks for, and to, all those who have kept their sense of common decency. His poetry takes on the moral and social realities of our current era, speaking through them, in anger and with care, the whole spectrum of human emotions, not the least of which is exuberance. This is the healthiest, most honest poetry I’ve read in a long time." – James Scully, author of Angel in Flames: Selected Poems 1967-2011
BIO: Jonathan Andersen’s other books include The Burden Note (Meridian Prize, 2014), an English/Serbo-Croatian chapbook, and Stomp and Sing (Curbstone Press/Northwestern University Press, 2005). He is the editor of the anthology Seeds of Fire: Contemporary Poetry from the Other U.S.A. (Smokestack Books, 2008).
His poems have appeared in print and online publications, including Blue Collar Review, The Café Review, Chiron Review, Connecticut Review, Counterpunch, Exposition Review, Freshwater, HeART, Here, North American Review, The Progressive, Rattle, and The Worcester Review, among others.
He has been a featured reader at events throughout the eastern United States, the United Kingdom, and Serbia, including the Ledbury Poetry Festival (2008), the 49th International Festival of Literature in Belgrade (2012), and the 42nd Smederevo Poetry Autumn (2014).
For twelve years he was a high school English and special education teacher, and since 2008 he has been a professor of English at Quinebaug Valley Community College in Danielson and Willimantic, Connecticut. He and his wife, fellow writer and educator Denise Abercrombie, live in Storrs, Connecticut with their two sons, Kit and Miles.
Visit the poet's website: jonathanandersenpoet.com