Dodge Poet Spotlight: Joe Weil

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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 Joe Weil.

Joe at a High School Mini-Festival. Photo Credit: Lauren Rutten

What are you reading?
I am reading directions to my baby daughter’s travel bed. Re-reading Charles Mingus’ Beneath The Underdog, and Miguel Hernandez’ poems . Also re-reading Carolyn Kizer’s collected poems.

When did you first discover poetry? What poets made you want to write poetry?
My Irish grandmother and aunts spoke in poems. Language was more than mere information: “never marry a short man; they’re a bag full of cats” is one saying. “Don’t open the door to troubles, child; close it on the ones you already own” (said to me when I left the door open). I started reading short stories and listening to old songs and rhymes. Television helped. The night sky on The Honeymooners made me feel romantic longings I had no business feeling (I was four) > I told my uncle Pete. He said: “That’s called being poetic.”

What is your favorite place to read?
When I was young under a tree, as I grew to adulthood, at the kichen table, now, as I enter my dotage, in the bathroom.

With all the other demands and distractions in life, how do you make time for poetry?
I practice constructive sloth. I am busy avoiding being busy at least 8 hours a day. I almost always succeed in reading a poem, writing one, writing a song, or sitting around watching birds. Watching birds is vital. Wasting time is my passion. I only write when I should be doing something else.

Tell us about any personal habits, rituals, ceremonies, superstitions that are part of your writing practice.
I need books around me. I need white noise (I love writing right near the hum of the refrigerator). I like stealing time and finishing a poem just before I’m supposed to go somewhere. I like making coffee, letting it go cold and drinking it as I write. A cold slice of pizza is also not to be despised.

Tell us about your favorite experience reading for an audience.
I read once and sixteen people from highschool showed up to my reading. I had not seen anyone in over 30 years. High school was horrible for me. My mom died. My dad was sick. I was mocked a lot, but for whatever reason, I was glad to see them, elated, and I remembered a story about each one of them. They had read about me in the paper and saw me on the NJPBS. A few cried. They all looked the same only with little wrinkle masks. I found out that, by accident, being a poet had helped me to forgive everyone who had made it hard for me to be alive. I felt this amazing feeling of having forgiven and been forgiven. I didn’t know how many stories I had carried. All that was left were the stories and I could tell them best. I had become their witness. This was one of the most amazing things that ever happened to me next to the birth of my daughter Clare.

What is the funniest/strangest response you’ve ever gotten to telling someone you are a poet?
I would never tell anyone I am a poet, but my Aunt told an old friend I was a poet, and that person said: “Short and bald and lives with his aunt… he best be a poet.” I thought that was funny and indicative of the working class world I come from. If you say you just won the pulitzer, they’ll remind you your cousin Ed is a world class spoon player.

Her Breathing and Our Child One

The TV rises for its three o’clock feeding:
infomercials, stars who have not been stars
for forty years but who have a spatula to sell
that also functions as an AK47. “well I’ll be

damned” the ghost of my grandfather says.
“what will they come up with next?”
On channel 16, Flipper is catching a ball.
On Channel 428, Tyrone Power has

fallen on hard times, become
via hubris, the carnival geek who
bites off the heads of chickens.
On channel 8248, the goalie from Chad

is making a spectacular leaping save
into my dreams since I have fallen
asleep, remote in my cold lifeless hands
my unborn child gunned down by

a greasy spatulasome faded celebrity
smiling with enormous lips
the super nova of all has-beens, the collagen
revolution gone amiss. What kiss of death

awaits my daughter? I wake, having dropped
the remote on my foot havoc! Stalone
dangles from a chopper firing plastic surgeons
at the terrorists: give them all nose jobs!

I go into the bedroom where my wife snores
a gentle breeze of Elijah, her womb ready
to let this creature out bewildered, needing
everything: food, love, sanity. God

I am in love. I am in Vestal, New York.
It is 5 am, dark November, the carcass
of thanksgiving turkey, bones freshly
picked. Her breathing and our child one.

-Joe Weil

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