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Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 3:25am

Mercer University Poet Contemplates Cancer In 'I Watched You Disappear'

The first line of the title poem in Anya Silver’s new book “I Watched You Disappear” is uncharacteristically harsh – “That f--king doctor killed you.”

“I’m constantly aware every week of somebody I know who dies,” she said in an interview.

Silver is, by many accounts, the Mercer University English professor that students hope they get. She's known for her mentoring as much as her scholarship.

But at age 42, the poet also has advanced, incurable breast cancer.

Even though she feels well right now, the disease has plunged her into a world populated with other sick people, “and so it’s impossible for me to cut that part out of my life,” she said.

In that first line, Silver is addressing several women who died of breast cancer with whom she had become friends.

Diagnosed in 2004 while pregnant with her son, Silver went into remission, but the cancer came back in 2010.

“I’m considered with living with ‘advanced breast cancer,’ but there are a lot of us now living with advanced breast cancer because of the quality of the new drugs that have been released,” she said.

Silver’s new book of poems does not deal exclusively with cancer, but it is a consistent theme throughout.

“Although I loathe cancer and wish that I didn’t have it, I think it’s made me a better poet because it’s given me a subject matter that I feel compelled to write about,” Silver said.

Silver would like to write about other things, she said, but she feels she has to write about cancer to be a voice for people with illness.

Poetry has also given her a way talk about things that are very hard for some people around her to discuss.

"I'm able to express some of the feelings and experiences that ill people have at a distance enough that it's easier for people to talk about,” Silver said.

“People can talk about a poem more easily than they can a personal experience."

Silver reads from her new book of poems Tuesday evening at 7:30 in the choir rehearsal room of Mercer's McCorkle Music Building.