Ander Monson

Ander Monson

Ander Monson the author of six books, including Letter to a Future Lover (Graywolf Press, 2015), Vanishing Point (Graywolf Press, 2010, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), and Other Electricities (Sarabande Books, 2005, a finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Prize), along with a decoder wheel, chapbooks, broadsides, an extensive website, and other media. He is the founder and editor of DIAGRAM, one of the first online literary journals, and of New Michigan Press. Find him online at He teaches in the MFA program at the University of Arizona.

Photo by Cybele Knowles






Here in the Pima County Public Library’s Seed Library at the Joel Valdez branch in downtown Tucson you can check out a pack of seeds to plant and grow. Six at a time at most for now. You do need a card. But there is no such thing as overdue for seeds: the library wipes them off your record after thirty days. Borrowers are asked to harvest seeds from a successful batch and “return” them when they can, assuming the seeds have not been accidentally hybridized. By this the library becomes a locus of literal growth, a catalyst for those whose hearts direct their hands on the soil and want to grow their world or food.

The seeds are kept in card catalogs—remainder of the world before the Internet. You’ll remember, if you’re of a certain age, when you would slide open a wooden drawer and see the cards on either side of what you wanted, sometimes leading your search pleasantly astray. Products of human expertise, the work of hands and books and hours, the cards were composed of librarians’ heirloom idiosyncrasies. Now those are gone, cut into quarters to be used for scrap. What remains is digital, which shows no fingerprints. Convenient, certainly, and downloadable as an app, the online index lacks mystique and physicality. But that’s the future we have made. Hard here, then, not to fetishize the past: the drawer’s sliding-open sound, the packets riffling under fingers. Pick one and give it a good maraca shake: this is the sound of your future garden.


from Letters to a Future Lover (Graywolf, 2015)

Arizona Board of Regents