Our Fresh Local Lit series serves up poems and prose by Philadelphians twice a week. Today’s author, Charles Carr, is a native Philadelphian who is currently working on his second book. Today he shares a poem reflecting on the most memorable year of his life.
What were you inspired by, and when, to write this poem? Is it possible to give intention to “flecks of randomness”?
I was inspired to write this poem when someone asked me to identify the most memorable year in my life. Assuredly, there have been other turning point years in my life, but 1963-64 really stood out: my father’s stroke; the assassination of JFK, working for a man who denied me a promotion to motivate me to go to college and paid one half of my first year tuition (a man who graduated from the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, but wound up becoming the head of the auditing department for an insurance company and who wanted me to have the opportunity to see the bigger world of art and ideas out there); torture of reading philosophy and falling in love with biology.
Yes, it is possible to give intention (perhaps direction might be a better word) from randomness. I tend to optimize the randomness within me to create my poems — the random images and words that tend to gravitate toward me and that I apply to the surface of my poems. Just like Pollock I find myself flinging, dripping and splattering words, yet I feel that I am still in control of the process.
What book is on your bedside table right now?
Absence And Presence by Photographer Louis Poirot, Pablo Neruda and translated by Alistair Reed. This book includes exquisite photographs of Neruda’s possessions and his last home on the Isla Negra and also has essays by 20 of his friends, including his wife Matilde Urrita, which offer insights and humorous memories of Neruda.
What is your current project? How is it going?
I have a few. One is launching my next book Haitian Mudpies. The second is working on a book of poems dedicated to the life a local famous forensic sculptor, Frank Bender. Both are going well.
Life As A Jackson Pollock Painting
That chapter titled Emmanuel Kant for Dummies struck me,
in which he portrayed life during that year as a Jackson Pollock painting:
capturing flecks of randomness, giving them intention,
framed in the phrase: an unfolding of consciousness.
The scene of his father’s stroke (into which he inserted a blank parenthesis) before
creating the simile of a fallen soldier collapsed on the floor between the couch and
the coffee table.
Seeing his mother now, more than a cup of tea waiting to be poured or a shirt
to the realization that women were the bricks and mortar that cemented men’s
The train ticket to New York City that his boss gave him with the instructions:
visit the Frick Museum,
lunch at Moriarity’s; bourbon on the rocks.
Report in the morning, summarize what he saw.
He wrote: I saw a different world in me and wanted to belong-
to a world other than calculating the chances of death and injury
with expense accounts, a car, nights in motels on the road,
The blood on Jackie Kennedy’s skirt that remained.
the fascination with the life of a single breath.
Charles Carr is a native Philadelphian, born and raised in Southwest Germantown. Charles attended LaSalle College and Bryn Mawr College, and has a Master’s degree in American History. For 35 years Charles has worked in social services, developing programs and advocating for the needs of abused and neglected children. Charles has also completed missions to Haiti and he is active in raising awareness and funding for various organizations Haiti. In 2009, Cradle Press of St. Louis published Charles’s first book of poetry: paradise, pennsylvania. Charles has been published in various local and national poetry reviews and is the 2008 First Prize Winner for the Mad Poets Review. Haitian Mud Pies, Charles’s next collection of poems, will be completed in 2012. Charles is married and has one son.