Nationality: American. Born: Omaha, Nebraska, 5 August 1939. Education: University of Nebraska, Lincoln, 1957–58, and Omaha, B.A. 1961; State University of New York, Buffalo, Ph.D. 1969. Family: Married Joanne Oliver in 1960. Career: Bibliographer, Lockwood Library, State University of New York, Buffalo, 1963–64; instructor in English, State University of New York, Fredonia, 1964–65, and Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, 1965–68. Instructor, 1968–70, and since 1970 assistant professor, then professor of English, University of Illinois, Chicago. Poetry editor, Audit, 1963–64, and co-editor, Audit/Poetry, 1963–67, Buffalo. Literary editor, Swallow Press, Chicago, 1968–74. Awards: Swallow Press New Poetry Series award, 1970. Address: Department of English, University of Illinois at Chicago Circle, Chicago, Illinois 60637, U.S.A.
The Color of Dust. Chicago, Swallow Press, 1970.
Set/Sorts. Chicago, Wine Press, 1974.
Riversongs. Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1978.
Constructions/Variations. Peoria, Illinois, Spoon River Poetry Press, 1985.
The Sky at Ashland. Mt. Kisco, New York, Moyer Bell, 1986.
Selected Poems. Wakefield, Rhode Island, Asphodel Press, 1994.
In Natural Light. Wakefield, Rhode Island, Asphodel Press, 1999.
Recording: Michael Anania and Mari Evans Reading Their Poems, Gertrude Clarke Whittall Poetry and Literature Fund, Library of Congress, 1985; Illinois Reads: Talks with Illinois Authors: Michael Anania (videotape), Library Cable Network, 1986.
The Red Menace. New York, Thunder's Mouth Press, 1984.
In Plain Sight: Obsessions, Morals & Domestic Laughter. Mt. Kisco, New York, Asphodel Press, 1991.
Editor, New Poetry Anthology 1–2. Chicago, Swallow Press, 1969–72.
Editor, Gardening the Skies: The Missouri Writers' Biennial Anthology. Springfield, Southwest Missouri State University, 1988.* * *
In The Color of Dust Michael Anania traces his passage from the timeless to the contemporary, from small-town life by the Missouri River to a state of mind questioning national myths and the consequences of war. By evoking a sense of the land and people and by recognizing the permanence and the regenerative powers of the river, he demonstrates how identity stems from the knitting together of person and place ("We are not confused, / we do not lose our place"). But self-definition may be accomplished only one moment at a time, and periods of doubt inevitably occur ("Am I a songster or a dealer?"). So, too, in his calling the poet attempts to capture and maintain, thereby creating his own dilemma; the writing of a poem means the wresting of something from its organic context. But it is the nature of the creator to utter his vision and, in doing so, to preserve what he perceives. Time and again the poet must confront the realization that all things change; in Robert Creeley's words, "Everything is water / if you look long enough."
Anania's attempts to preserve the interrelatedness of experience may be seen metaphorically in "The Fall" and dramatically in his war pieces. In the latter he presents the survivors, those men with fragments of mind and those who suffer physical decay. Here Anania successfully weaves a living tapestry as he reveals the tragic operation of causality in human lives. Time goes on, and man improves his weapons; he progresses from shrapnel to napalm. The American hero, a manifestation of national power propagated by the media, wears "the satin cape / the big red S / meaning, after all, better than." Superman's cool efficiency and superior strength symbolize the power of a machine-driven culture.
In Riversongs the meaning and metaphor of the river are extended to encompass a sense of the historical past, the passage of time to the present, and the inevitable flow toward death. "The Riversongs of Arion," the ten-poem sequence that gives the book its name, recounts a modern attempt to retrace the Lewis and Clark journey and incorporates excerpts drawn from Lewis's journals. The river of historical time flows into the present and becomes one with the mind of the persona. After all, the first rule of river and mind is motion: "… In time / the river side-winds its banks. / Never the same soil …" Elements of the historical past, of the struggle to settle the frontier, clarify how human experience is continuous and becomes intertwined as it flows into contemporary America, and Lewis's words mingle with references to Billy the Kid, John Wesley Hardin, Wild Bill Hickok, Sacajawea, and Huck Finn. The poem's movement resembles the outward rippling caused by a stone dropped in water and, simultaneously, a deepening, for every journey is a life quest, individual, uncertain:
each night I read my Journals
like a novel, seeking some
inevitability of plot, a hint
of form pointing toward an end
The river of memory floats the persona back to the dead fathers of his family ("Reeving") and forward to present time ("News Notes, 1970").
Poetry is music that moves like a river, a liquid music flowing and changing. In the play of liquid and light illuminations sparkle like sunlight on wave tips. In Riversongs the best of Anania's poems embody the endurance of water wedded to the delicacy of light; things come in waves, they stream past the beholding eye, and they are gone. In the river's continuity and the light playing on its surface, Anania captures and preserves "those shafts of light / the soul is mirror to."