Mrs. Ramsay's Knee

by Idris Anderson

Volume 12 of the May Swenson Poetry Award Series, 2008

Winner of the Pushcart Prize, 2010

"It's rare, especially now, to encounter poems so well-made, so rich in traditional learning and painterly exactitude, that speak to the heart as strongly as to the mind. This is a memorable debut."

—Alan Williamson

"Encountering news photographs, paintings, and remembered private moments in many places, Idris Anderson's poems respond to love and grief, memories and catastrophes, beauty and suffering, by tracing visual compositions, real or imagined—blue water, green rocks, orange fire, gray smoke, yellow helmets, a white dress, mauve-pink firelight of bombed burning houses, purple figs, a black boot, and red mud, a red coat, the bright red blood of injury. In this book, insistent seeing can make damage uncomfortably appealing to our greedy eyes, and yet is also a tender homage to love and beauty."
—Reginald Gibbons

"Idris Anderson's capacious imagination and intelligence come alive in what she calls 'the fluctuating waters of myth and history' and illuminates each moment of her resplendent and poignant collection of poems, Mrs. Ramsay's Knee. The hope or drive of these poems—and their success—is to discover, as Virginia Woolf reminds us, 'intimacy itself' and to lay claim to the knowledge that lies deep inside the landscape of our desires."
—Michael Collier


Mrs. Ramsay's Knee offers fresh and elegant poems by Idris Anderson, many of them ekphrastic considerations of visual works of art. Among her subjects are paintings by Rembrandt, Rousseau, Pollock, and Chagall, yet she equally explores a set of news photos from the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.

Idris Anderson's voice is both compassionate and calm, yet she brings a vivid imaginative world to light, illuminating art and life alike. The poet has little interest in ideology, but great concern for lived experience in all its richness. This poetry is as full of feeling as intelligence, drawing the reader ever closer to that intimacy with the human condition that brings true understanding. In selecting her work to win the Swenson Poetry Award for 2008, Harold Bloom wrote, "The grave, measured poetic voice won me instantly."


Idris Anderson has published poems in AGNI, Arts & Letters Prime, The Hudson Review, The Nation, Ontario Review, The Paris Review, Southern Review, and other journals. She has held grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities to study lyric poetry with Helen Vendler at Harvard University, Greek tragedy at Stanford University, and Virginia Woolf in London. She has a PhD from the University of South Carolina and an MFA from Warren Wilson College, and was awarded a Pushcart Prize in 2010 and a Pushcart Special Mention in 2012.

Imprint: Utah State University Press

Book Details

  • Paperback Price: $13.95
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-87421-719-3
  • Ebook Price: $10.00
  • EISBN: 978-0-87421-720-9
  • Publication Year: 2008
  • Pages: 116
  • Discount Type: Short
  • Author: by Idris Anderson
  • ECommerce Code: 978-0-87421-718-6