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T. J. Anderson III

T.J. Anderson III was born in Guthrie, Oklahoma. He received a BA from the University of Massachusetts, an MFA from the University of Michigan, and a PhD from SUNY Binghamton.

He is the author of the poetry collections Devonte Travels the Sorry Route (Omnidawn, 2019), Cairo Workbook (Willow Books, 2014), and River to Cross (Backwaters Press, 2009). He is also the author of Notes to Make the Sound Come Right: Four Innovators of Jazz Poetry (University of Arkansas Press, 2004).

Of his work, Khaled Mattawa writes, "Lyrical, linguistically inventive, and deadly serious, Anderson wields surrealism to create surprising metaphors and revelatory dream symbols for our age, for the struggles our spirits and bodies engage."

Anderson lives in Roanoke, Virginia, where he teaches at Hollins University.

Selected Bibliography

Devonte Travels the Sorry Route (Omnidawn, 2019)
Cairo Workbook (Willow Books, 2014)
River to Cross (Backwaters Press, 2009)

By This Poet


How to be Remembered

a name—a date—a place—a year—a day—a month—a century—an epoch—a season—a surname—
a middle initial—a first name—an occupation—a quote—a place to drop flowers—
a ridge of stone—a seed of bone—a mound—a knee bent to ground—a section—a locale—
a pastoral ridge—a road to drive to—a plot—a thickening—a tear—a tear—a lawn manicured—
a special tree—a special plea—a seclusion—a sedation—a seduction—a will—a testament—
a bridge—a finality—a cough—a recognizable sniffle—a special suit—a subdued tie—
a receding hair line—a brown shoe—a brown shoe—a black belt—a wedding ring—
a carnation—a pair of glasses—a handkerchief—a stiff upper lip—a stiff upper lip—
a flask—a memorial program—a church fan—a hearse’s engine—a white cloud overhead—
a fallen leaf—a sudden bird song—a sun in the branches—a nugget of dirt—a sprinkler—
a lawn mower—a funeral flag—a random bicyclist—a black gate—a black gait—a record—
a capacity—a requiem—a window—a windbag—a slight—a slip—a read—a reed—
a rhapsody—a lapel—a brush—a flaw—a spare—a sparkle—a spandex—a crown—a castanet—
a eulogy—a feud—a flood—a stamp—a cellular text—a sandwich—a candy bar—
a bag of nuts—a casserole—a potted plant—a creeping moss—a caterpillar—a cocoon—
a loose thread—a sweaty armpit—a cigarette stub—a loose quarter—a bottle of pills—
a veil—a hat band—a line of reasoning—a contract—a contact—a religious medal—
a lawyer—a widow—a survivor—a shovel—a pulley—a glove—a dog—a beetle—
a business card—a repass—a nickel—a sneeze—a cough—a lien—a reunion—
a genealogy—a claimant—a brick pathway—a curb—an abode—a body—a body—a body—

Devonte Travels the Sorry Route

True, like I scribe to you
Devonte was a foot soldier.
Hep to the old one two
brogan banged pavement.

Downbeat long past
“feets do yo stuff.”
He was the dis
mordant shuffler,
son of the penny-ante,
off-beat “love will find a way” Blakean prodigy.

                                                                               Glider of man
                                                                               holes and jack-ball
                                                                               bottles pushed to the curb.

He was the hoofer,
the wolf boy calling cadence
to Okmulgee back
dreams and dawning days
where he Eagle Rocked
in Cimarron sludge
and ragged tails                                                       at a high school dance


After hours
                    Devonte pushed a rickety shopping cart
                                                                  through market lanes and stone soul picnic
surrey with the frontier fringe on top.
emblematic of the colonizer’s booze
grandiloquent booby prize filth
                                                                  progeny of branch noose ripe tree


Legacy of a miraculous
bounty of hang nailed fingers
blood birds poaching pedigrees to
“Here I am. Now you see me, now you don’t.”
subject to the gaze of distant blue hated brothers
or rather a bother of continual apparition

the “me not me” rattling in the stove pipe
of his own voice rife with suffering.

What the Medicine Cabinet Said

Devonte, think of it this way
              that the                             faces                              of gods                                                  

                                                     are hidden                                        in the bathroom orchids.

Believe you me                       I’ve seen them
                                                                     silently whispering through the shampoo smoke

        the aftershave offerings

                                                                                           that waft over our lady of the toilet

above the hydrogenous fissures                       we mistake for mouths
above                     the hand          that trembles

before unscrewing                                        the aspirin host
                                                                                                       above the mouthwash
with its undeniable

periwinkle for cleanliness
the commode gods are staring.

                                                                                               They are contemplating
                                                                                            your next awkward preamble.

They are waiting
to pounce forth from
the moan and sway
of your bowels,
eat away at you like
maggots devouring flesh.