Robert Anbian (June 27, 1949 - February 23, 2022) wrote about sex, politics, seas and oceans, city streets, deserts, war, love, music, highways, petty larceny, ecstasy, childhood, death, memories. His poems and stories are populated with the poor, lost, exiled, angry, crazy in love, and intoxicated. “We, the chaos people/ the pre-manufactured people….” His syntax is mangled, his narrative a montage. He had little use for metaphor. He means exactly what he says. His texts are homespun, esoteric, oddly familiar and strange. He’s discovering the music in language, in thought, in the cortex of consciousness. He’s funny.
That Anbian, a leading voice in the San Francisco poetry underground, isn’t more widely known is as much a tribute to his “odd man out” obstinacy as to the usual reluctance of society to deal with its critics. Yet obstinacy has a point. Anbian writes a poetry that won’t surrender an inch of imaginative freedom to love, hate, or ideology – his own above all. With I NOT I (EDT4072), the word comes from the poet himself in a writer’s voice – that is, in a language demotic, impassioned, and little peculiar. Included in this powerful follow-up to the 2007 poetry and jazz CD, Robert Anbian and the Unidentified Flying Quartet, also on Edgetone Records (EDT4052), is a sweeping selection from Anbian’s epochal WE series, in a new sequence enacting the poems’ contingent, open-ended form. This is an important recording for anyone interested in poetry, spoken word, literature, anti-literature, and the troubled junctures of culture and politics.
Robert Anbian published three poetry collections, WE Parts 1 & 2 (Night Horn Books 1999), Antinostalgia (Ruddy Duck Press 1992) and Bohemian Airs & Other Kêfs (Night Horn Books, 1982). His most recent publication is the chapbook, Blame the Powerful: Political Poems (War&Peace Press 2004). His work has appeared in the anthologies, Beyond Lament: Poets of the World Confront the Holocaust (Northwestern) and Practicing Angels: A Contemporary Anthology of San Francisco Bay Area Poetry (Seismograph), at www.newversenews.com, and in the literary periodicals City Lights Review, North Coast Literary Review, Oxygen, Left Curve, Oro Madre, Compages, and the electronic journal, Rif/t. From 1978-82, he edited the literary review, Oboe. A native of New Jersey and graduate of the University of Virginia, Anbian lives and works as journalist and editor in San Francisco.
“Pound said that poets were the antennae of the race. Anbian is a satellite dish.” — Small Press Review
“Mere words can’t even begin to describe how…whacked-out yet utterly brilliant Anbian’s poetry is.” — RKF, The One True Dead Angel Magazine
“A passionate virtuoso steeped in these times and deep with tradition. His poetry crackles with currency — hiply linguistic turns of natural originality, rhythmically brimming with a tempestuous taste of ecstasy, reason, and love.” — Oxygen
“Anbian creates an impressionistic, dreamy ride through a typical cultural Mecca at night, with love, politics and the aforementioned [anal] fetish in mind.” — Music Emissions
“These stories have erotic connotations, but much more than describing fantasies, they are depictions of a life that is rewarding and rich and sees something exciting happening around every corner. It is hooked by all the little things…as well as by the colorfulness of a city filled to the brim with manifold languages and cultures.” – Tobias Fischer
“[Anbian’s poetry] unflinchingly embraces contradiction. Occurring within a stanza, a line, or even a phrase, the contradictions accumulate into a multi-layered and complex struggle.” — San Francisco Bay Guardian
“His voice crackles with a midnight vibe….” – sea of tranquility