Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Anya Silver, poet
February 20, 2014
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Dr. Anya Silver is most recognized by her teaching position in Mercer’s English department, which she has held since 2000.
However, Silver not only teaches literature and poetry, she writes her own.
Silver has known she wanted to teach English since she was in kindergarten, and she has been writing for just as long.
In college, she concentrated her undergraduate English major in creative writing and went on to specialize in Victorian literature, with additional interests in children’s literature, women’s studies and (you guessed it) poetry while in graduate school at Emory University.
“At first I thought I was going to be a high school English teacher, but I did that for a year, and it was a nightmare,” said Silver. “It was all discipline and no teaching of English. So I went back to graduate school and decided I wanted to teach at the college level.”
Silver chose to teach at Mercer University in part because both she and her husband, Dr. Andrew Silver, were offered jobs at Mercer.
She also chose the school and cannot picture herself anywhere else because of the sense of community provided by Mercer.
On top of her work as a Mercer professor, Silver has written and published two books of poetry. The first book was published in 2010 and titled “The Ninety-Third Name of God” and the second book was published in February of 2014, titled “I Watched You Disappear.”
“It’s really gratifying to feel like you’re communicating with people,” said Silver. “That’s why the books make me so happy, is because I feel like people are reading what I have to say, and I’m not just writing into a void. My poems do try to communicate to other people. I want to write to ordinary people who can take something from my poems, and somehow make sense of their logic, and see parts of their life through the poem, or just feel like someone understands them.”
Silver explains that she does not just wait for inspiration to find her because life will get in the way.
She has to make a conscious effort to find the time to write because the more she makes time to write, the more she finds herself inspired.
Silver believes poetry to be a craft that needs to be practiced just like any other activity, such as yoga or an instrument, because poetry is something that you have to work at.
She will sometimes sit down to write a poem and have a specific image or title in mind, but once she begins writing, the poem has the opportunity to go anywhere or become anything.
“I find that teaching literature and reading literature is the best way for me to be inspired. When you constantly read it, you just become influenced by what you’re reading, and you can get ideas from it,” said Silver.
The poet who has been the biggest influence to Silver is Anna Akhmatova, a Russian poet, because her writing is always deep.
Silver is attracted to the subject matters Akhmatova writes about, including the meaning of life, understanding suffering, and understanding love.
“She asks the biggest questions you can ask and does it in a language that is very accessible to people.”
Silver is careful about what poems she allows to be published or that she reads at poetry readings. She thinks about who is reading the poem when she sends it off to be published.
Silver explained that there will always be some poetry to write just for herself for her to express her thoughts and emotions.
“Anybody could pick up certain books and read the poetry, and it will make sense to them, and they would take meaning from it,” said Silver.
“When bad things happen in people’s lives or when good things happen, they turn to poetry because there is something essential and primal about poetry that speaks to people.”
Leaving the Hospital
As the doors glide shut behind me,
the world flares back into being—
I exist again, recover myself,
sunlight undimmed by dark panes,
the heat on my arms the earth’s breath.
The wind tongues me to my feet
like a doe licking her newborn fawn.
At my back, days measured by vital signs,
my mouth opened and arm extended,
the nighttime cries of a man withered
child-size by cancer, and the bells
of emptied IVs tolling through hallways.
Before me, life—mysterious, ordinary—
holding off pain with its muscular wings.
As I step to the curb, an orange moth
dives into the basket of roses
that lately stood on my sick room table,
and the petals yield to its persistent
nudge, opening manifold and golden.
– Anya Silver
from her new book, I Watched You Disappear