Poet Spotlight: Robert Carnevale

Posted on by Dodge

Welcome back to our blog series on Poetry Fridays, Dodge Poet Spotlight. We are turning the focus over to the individuals who make our programming what it is in the schools, with teachers in Spring & Fountain, and on the ground at the Dodge Poetry Festival — the Dodge Poets.

Each week, a Dodge Poet answers some questions about themselves and provides a selected poem of their own work. We hope that this will be a way for you to get to know the Dodge Poets a little better, and you can get an idea of why we love working with them so much.

Without further ado, Dodge Poet and one of the leaders of our Image to Image series for teachers, Robert Carnevale.

Photo Credit: Lauren Rutten

What are you reading?
Why the Mind Has a Body by C. A. Strong, and The Mayor of MacDougal Street by Dave Van Ronk, with Elijah Wald

Richard Hugo said we’ve written every poem we ever loved.  He was particularly proud of having written Yeats’ “Easter, 1916.”  What great poem are you proud of having written?
The one I’m keeping nearby now is “The God Abandons Antony” by Constantine Cavafy.  Before that it was Robert Frost’s “An Old Man’s Winter Night” and, before that, several passages from Theodore Roethke’s “North American Sequence”.

With all the other demands and distractions in life, how do you make time for poetry?
I don’t think I have done very well at this.  I am sure the muse would like more devotion.  On the other hand, I don’t have much choice when a poem does grab me.  I fear it’s me, I hope it’s her, but one of us will not let go.

Tell us about any personal habits, rituals, ceremonies, superstitions that are part of your writing practice.
I don’t generally sit down to write.  For both composing and revising I tend to walk about until I have to start recording what I’ve got.  If I’m already sitting when the impulse comes on, I usually stay put until I come to a decision point or sense that there’s something further, something behind or beyond what I’ve found.  Then I get up on my feet.

Tell us about your favorite experience reading for an audience.
I remember an evening at The Frost Place in New Hampshire when I felt that I chose, ordered, and delivered the poems in such a way that the set felt like a single work.   Also a contrasting experience at Drew University (where I teach) when I felt that I saw each poem whole and clear and was able to set it down intact on the air.  My favorite place to read in New Jersey is The Carriage House in Fanwood.

What is the funniest/strangest response you’ve ever gotten to telling someone you are a poet?
I go through all kinds of contortions to avoid calling myself a poet. I feel that is for others to say.  As far as I can see Auden nailed it when he wrote “one is only a poet while one is writing a poem.”  “Being a poet” beyond that is simply another obstacle to making an honest poem.

Things We Do and Don’t Say of the Rain

We say light, steady, driving.
We do not say deep, do not say dead,
we do not say the rain is down.

And all the while,
whatever we say, the rain
is not even here.
Where the rain is
there is no here.  That is
just one of our schemes.

But once you are here,
rain is here with you;
once there, you are
there with the rain.

We are of the same place
as the rain, we hear it,
and it is true.  Sometimes
we even see it –
if not so plainly as Hiroshige.

Speak for me too, rain,
and I will listen.

Fall all into and through me,
and refill the dark spring.

Sometimes, I hear you there,
rain, and I feel I might

see this world yet…
I could just walk to the window…

And yet…
I do not move.

What I saw would not be
what I heard.  (I saw it
best when I just listened.)

–Robert Carnevale.

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