prolific outpouring of lyric verse from this retired Davidson College
English professor. But the volume is also a first for Abbott. "It's
the only book of poems I've written where every poem is part of the
story of the book," he said.
As for a story, Abbott has chosen a big one. "It tells life's story,"
he said. "Not my life story. The universal life story."
Abbott invites the public to attend a premier reading and "celebration
in music, poetry and art" for If Words Could Save Us on Sunday
afternoon, October 16. Abbott's recitation of several of the poems
will be accompanied by live music and projection of images. It will
begin at 3 p.m. in Semans Lecture Hall in the Belk Visual Arts Center
on the Davidson campus. He will also conduct a reading on Wednesday
evening, October 19, at Park Road Books in Charlotte. For more
information on either event call 704-894-2254.
Abbott compiled If Words Could Save from his ever-increasing
collection of individual poems. Last year he began to sift through the
collection in search of commonality and themes. The book's three
section titles – "Providence," "Ordinary Time" and "Grace" were drawn
from that process.
The themes reflect Abbott's interpretation of the stages of life. He
explained, "Providence is about God kicking Adam and Eve from the
Garden of Eden, about young people becoming adults. Ordinary Time is
that long period of life lived in the real world, and Grace concerns
the redemption we finally receive in unexpected and surprising ways at
the conclusion of life."
The book expresses Abbott's gratitude for being blessed with an
enthusiastic passion for language arts, as well as his recognition
that not everyone shares his joy in life's journey. He said, "It's a
tough time for us as a nation, and I hope the book will help some
readers find a little joy, blessing and peace."
If Words Could Save Us has earned high praise from early readers in
the literary community. Joel Connaroe, president of the Guggenheim
Memorial Foundation, wrote on the book jacket, "Charm is difficult to
define but we know it when we see it and we see it on every page of
Anthony Abbott's elegantly crafted, moving poems, whether elegiac,
confessional, allusive, or slyly comic."
Abbott's book includes for the first time in his career a CD of him
reciting about half of the printed poems because, he said, "Most
people do better if they hear poetry."
Abbott is a native of San Francisco who received his undergraduate
degree from Princeton University and his Ph.D. from Harvard. His
teaching career at Davidson began in 1964 and concluded officially
with his retirement in 2001, and unofficially in 2006 when he last
taught a section of Humanities at the college. However, teaching has
continued to be as important in his life as writing. In 2007 he spent
aterm at Lenoir-Rhyne University as "Writer in Residence," and he now
serves as a member of the advisory board of Lenor-Rhyne's visiting
His association with Lenoir-Rhyne and literary reputation led to an
invitation that Abbott edit an anthology of work by writers who have
served in the "Visiting Writer" series. The resulting book, What
Writers Do, will debut in late November, contains contributions from
32 of the greatest authors of this era, including Seamus Heaney,
Sharon Olds, John Updike, Nikki Giovanni, Frank McCourt, Reynolds
Price and others. Abbott introduces their work with an essay
explaining the structure of the book and his reflections on the role
of writers in society. "I conclude that what writers do is change
lives," he said. "They bring a new dimension of life to readers."
He presents readings frequently, and teaches writing workshops. He is
currently conducting a poetry workshop at Queens University in
Charlotte, and doing workshops for two churches.
He has published steadily since his first book of poems, The Girl in
the Yellow Raincoat, appeared in 1989. If Words Could Save Us joins
his other volumes of poetry, A Small Thing Like a Breath, The Search
for Wonder in the Cradle of the World, The Man Who and his "greatest
hits" volume of 2009, New and Selected Poems. He has also written two
novels. Leaving Maggie Hope won the 2003 Novello Literary Award, and
was followed in 2007 by a sequel titled The Three Great Secret Things.