Photographers Unknown, Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Photo Set Twenty-Six
Look in the Salon des Refusés of most periods
and there will hang the homosexuals
labeled by critics
“contrary to nature”.
Now, to use a familiar set of distinctions, what
exists but is not nature must be art;
yet art is also an imitation
of some process of nature: so art, too, is natural,
whatever its manner.
Art may evolve through accretions of tradition
or leap ahead into the unknown.
This form of expression, the gay life
so maddening and unimaginable to some,
necessarily involves a leap into the unknown,
for its traditions, such as they are, are shadowy.
Note how, on every side, images proclaim
and sustain the straight life. In parks and town squares
one may behold the monumental figures of, say,
Cohibere guarding his family from the Amplecti,
of Scruta and Amentia denouncing the barbarians,
or of the marriage of Turpa and Insulsus on the battlefield.
Images of the gay life, in contrast, are obscure, are
curiosities kept locked from the public in cabinets: in consequence,
gay lives must style themselves with craft,
with daring. Many fail. Even so,
some grow amazing and beautiful.
And since such triumphs are typically achieved
amidst general bewilderment and in defiance
of academic theory, the gay life
deserves to be ranked among
the significant examples of art, past and present.
And because it has disordered whatever may be
the accustomed ways of seeing in its time,
it is therefore avant-garde,
Jack Anderson, A Lecture on Avant-Garde Art, Word of Mouth: An Anthology of Gay American Poetry, Editor Timothy Liu, 2000
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in June of 1935, Jack Anderson is an American poet, dance critic and dance historian. He has contributed numerous reviews on dance performances for both the “New York Times” and “Dance Magazine”. Anderson is also known for his scholastic work on dance history and eleven volumes of poetry.
In his formative years, Jack Anderson studied piano and acted in theater groups before his departure to college. He earned his Bachelor of Arts at Northwestern University with a major in Theater and minors in English Literature and Philosophy. Anderson completed his graduate studies at Indiana University where he earned his Master of Arts in Creative Writing. He pursued further studies at the University of California, Berkeley, until a position became available at the “Oakland Tribune”.
Anderson joined the staff of the weekly news publication in 1959 as a copy boy. He was promoted after one year to assistant drama critic and, in addition to his work at the Tribune, began writing dance criticism for both the English periodical “Ballet Today” and America’s leading dance periodical “Dance Magazine”. After relocating to New York in 1969, Anderson was a member of the editorial staff of “Dance Magazine” until 1970, after which he continued to contribute reviews until 1978.
While living in London with his partner, dance historian and writer George Dorris, Jack Anderson was deputy dance critic from 1970 to 1971 at the “Daily Mail” under critic and broadcaster Oleg Kerensky. In 1972, he became the New York correspondent for London’s “Dancing Times” magazine. Already writing and teaching dance history, Anderson along with George Dorris founded the scholarly journal “Dance Chronicle: Studies in Dance and the Related Arts”, which became one of the genre’s leading periodicals. In 1978, he joined Anna Kisselgoff and Jennifer Dunning as the dance critics for “The New York Times”, where he remained until 2005.
Drawn to poetry throughout his adult life, Anderson published his first two collections of poetry in 1969: “The Hurricane Lamp” and “The Invention of New Jersey”. His subtle yet witty poems often explore themes of urban life and travel. Anderson has the urban sophistication and the alertness to create often lurid tales that in a strange way make sense. Among his many volumes are the 1978 “Toward the Liberation of the Left Hand”, “The Clouds of That Country” published in 1982, the 1990 “Field Trips on the Rapid Transit”, and “Backyards of the Universe” published in 2017. In recognition of his work, Anderson received a creative writing fellowship and a literary award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Recognized as both an effective teacher and lecturer, Jack Anderson has taught dance history and criticism at the University of Adelaide in Australis, the University of Minnesota, the North Carolina School of the Arts, the University of Oklahoma, and New York’s New School, among others. From the 1970s through the 1990s, Anderson has produced seven books on various aspects of dance. Among these are the 1979 “The Nutcracker”, the “Ballet & Modern Dance” available in three editions, and the 1981 “The One and Only: The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo” which won that year’s José de la Rorre Bueno Prize for best English-language writing in dance history.
Note: Jack Anderson and George Dorris, a dance scholar and now retired English professor, had known each other slightly at Northwestern University. They later met in 1965 on the Lincoln Center subway platform after a New York City Ballet performance. They have traveled together throughout the world and become friends with dance scholars in many countries. In 2006, they were married in Toronto and currently reside in Manhattan, New York.
A collection of six poems by Jack Anderson can be found at the Poetry Foundation website located at: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/jack-anderson#tab-poems
The second edition, recently updated, of Anderson’s “Ballet and Modern Dance: A Concise History” is available through Amazon.