An Engagement with Anna Ross's If a Storm

by Sean Lee

In Anna Ross’s If a Storm, the general structure is divided into four sections, which organizes a definite foundation for how Ross views nature in connection with her personal struggles in life. Capturing the pain and signs of hope with a simple title, If a Storm, which can also be interpreted as a hypothetical clause, Ross sums up her fight to express her feelings about loss and creation at a whole new level and perspective. The notion of how nature reacts in conjunction with the reality and pain explains Ross’s aggressive word choice displayed within her four “Dear…” poems, one in each section: “Dear Hurricane,” “Dear Flood,” “Dear Earthquake,” and “Dear Fog,” in that order.  Within these poems Ross suggests that nature should apologize for destroying human emotions. She encrypts that message and assertive idea by first personifying the natural disaster. For example, with “Dear Earthquake,” she gives the earthquake life by mentioning how “the many valves in [its] heart / begin to wake, cocking each chamber full.”  By perceiving nature as the same species as humans, Ross is able to address the disasters personally and without regret. On the other hand, no matter how devastating a natural cause can be, it does create room for a period of reconstruction and inspired hope for the future. There is a sense of forward motion and pursuit. In order to avoid being trapped in conflicts from the past, Ross focuses on the future product and hope, especially in her poem “Fuse,” which is about the Imperial Sugar Company in Georgia. The production and distribution of sugar was not enough to satisfy its community and customers, so the ending of the poem provides this "sweet" call to reality by skipping the necessary artificial procedures to create the commodity. Hence, the explosion and meltdown of the factory, which instantly forms this natural “scorch of caramel,” an invention better than anything that has left the factory beforehand. 

Even if one must be playing a waiting game, Ross instills a moment of pursuit and guidance by directing the reader to think in new ways, like she does by writing genuine modern reflections about historic artifacts, including film, artwork, and mythology. She finds a way to persuade anyone who reads this brilliant and moving collection to connect with her emotions, naturally.


Sean Lee is a first-year business major at Boston University.  He was born in Manhattan, raised in southern Connecticut, and is currently living in Boston.  In his spare time, Sean enjoys playing classical piano and cooking.