Dragonflies and Puffed Rice

posted in: Poetry, Writing | 0

Scott King, poet/publisher of Red Dragonfly Press housed at the Anderson Center in Red Wing, writes to offer appreciation of the recent blog featuring his poem, and the addition of two corrections: the Greek poet who inspired him (and may still do) is Yannis Ritsos. Further, I erred in locating him permanently in Lakeville. Rather we should think of him as from Northfield where he’s lived for ten years. In my mind, however, Scott will forever reside in the Anderson Center, just off highway 61 as it approaches Red Wing.

Likewise the Anderson Center belongs in my memory to writers and artists and puffed wheat and rice which was, according to old ads, “shot from cannon.” It was “discovered,” if you can talk about a chemist discovering a food’s properties, by A. P. Anderson over many years of work at the New York Botanical Society, Clemson College in South Carolina, and ultimately displayed at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.

A. P. Anderson brought his fascination with starchy cereal grains to Red Wing and built a laboratory and gracious home there for his work and family. Now run as a laboratory for the arts of all sorts by his grandson, the poet, editor, Robert Hedin, the Anderson Center sports an ad from Quaker Oats in its kitchen. Therefore “shot from cannon” sticks with me, as do many spring days wandering mental and physical pathways and staggering down steep hills to the Cannon River. This watery world topped by modest-sized bluffs was home to Native American tribes who left artifacts there in various kitchen middens. It was also the home, down by the river, of a most curious Minnesota artist, Charles Biederman, who spray-painted in odd, bold colors bits of metal which he fashioned into abstract assemblages.

Years ago I interviewed him in his vine-covered cottage beside the river I’d later come to know much better from residencies at the Anderson Center. Biederman was a short, blondish, grizzled man, who seemed encrusted with his own work–as scintillating and oddly arranged as his assemblages. His wife had died and the cottage was beginning to close in around him, but he showed no signs of stopping his art, though careless of fame, which he’d had, but which his retirement into this remote hermitage didn’t help to promote.

Right now, in my mind’s eye, his work appears rather dusty and faded, perhaps became the colors he used, fixed as they were to the metal, were not impervious to sunlight. Or because the works were not topped with glass that deflects ultra-violet rays. It’s probably as much my own imagination of him there by the river as any real assessment of the work that insists on remembering him encrusted by his modernist yet slowly crumbling work, as overtaken by age as the man himself. WARNING TO ARTISTS: keep from your door the young prying journalist who wasn’t born when you were in your prime.

A contemporary note: Scott King, very much in his prime, reports that he will publish a new book of poems, All Graced in Green, this spring. And among his many pursuits is study of meadowhawk dragonflies, the red dragonfly namesake of his press. To contact Scott and the press click on www.reddragonflypress.org

If we ever have any greening and blossoming to this spring, the hills above the Cannon River will be sweet with flowing plum, and the bike paths, nicely maintained by the city of Red Wing grand places for walking. Also inquire at the Anderson Center about visiting their rather newly installed sculpture garden, visible off Highway 61. This is metal work (which Biederman writ small) writ large!

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