The Interview with Jared Carter Page Two
by Vera Ignatowitsch
Vera: What poets do you most enjoy reading?
JC: Rilke, R. S. Thomas, Hölderlin, Kooser, Larkin, just about anyone in the T’ang Dynasty.
Vera: How about favorites among your own poems?
JC: An early poem, “Mourning Doves,” and a later one, “Under the Snowball Bush.” Both quite lush and romantic. And maybe a third, a rondeau, “With Mourning Doves.”
Vera: Have you ever written fiction?
JC: None that was successful.
Vera: You take photographs.
JC: Strictly as an amateur. I have been privileged to help carry the equipment of a few first-rate photographers. I am passionate about Vivian Maier’s work.
Vera: Why do you like it?
JC: When I was still in high school, I spent part of a summer in the Chicago area in 1955 – which is exactly when she was roaming that city, taking photographs of the street people and the “L” and the Loop and everything else that fascinated her. For me, it was an enchanted summer, straight out of Alain-Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes. When I see her photographs now, I am taken back to that time.
Vera: Why, when you began to publish verse, did you write poems about your native environment back in small-town Indiana?
JC: Because of what Sherwood Anderson told William Faulkner: “You have to have somewhere to start from: then you begin to learn. It don’t matter where it was, just so you remember it and ain’t ashamed of it. Because one place to start from is just as important as any other.”
Vera: Why didn’t you stick with that formula in subsequent books?
JC: As I began to learn, the horizon began to widen.
Vera: If you could invite any three writers or historical figures to dinner, who would they be?
JC: Henry James, Turgenev, and Sarah Orne Jewett. No, wait, it would have to include Flaubert and Willa Cather. Make that dinner for six.
Vera: No poets?
JC: No, but John Clare could stop by and we’d give him dessert.
Vera: As you approach your ninth decade, what have you learned? What seems significant?
JC: I’m impressed by the “three things in life [that] are important” about which Henry James wrote to his nephew. “The first is to be kind,” he said. “The second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
Vera: We’ll end on that. Thank you.
JC: My pleasure.
Vera: You’ve written many villanelles, including the thirty-two in Les Barricades Mystérieuses. What, for you, is the attraction of that form?
JC: There are plenty of good villanelles, but only two that the anthologists keep including – the one by Dylan Thomas, the other by Elizabeth Bishop. It’s a challenging form, not something you dash off, on a napkin, at the poetry slam. I was intrigued by some of the earlier villanelles in English, such as those by Oscar Wilde and Ernest Dowson, and I decided to try my hand at it.
Vera: Have you “tried your hand” at any other traditional forms?
JC: Over the years, of course, many different forms – sonnet, sestina, terza rima, rime royal, ballad, quatrain, and so on. All to keep a hand in.
Vera: Do you have a favorite form?
JC: I do not. But a manuscript I’m preparing consists of alexandroids, a nonce form that I and another poet, C. B. Anderson, have introduced.
Vera: Can you tell us more about that manuscript, or that form?
JC: Well, you can read about the alexandroid in an article Mr. Anderson published on the website of The Society of Classical Poets. I was invited to add my own two cents’ worth, too. As for the manuscript, I hope we’ll all learn more about it, just as soon as the collection is accepted for publication somewhere.
Vera: A number of your poems evoke or focus on creatures with wings, such as insects and mourning doves, and rarely on mammals or sea creatures.
JC: A wonderful observation! I’m sure you’re right. The new manuscript does have a number of bug poems in it, including one about a slug. Slugs don’t fly, however.
Vera: Is there any difference between publishing in print journals and publishing online?
JC: Not any longer. A dozen years from now, no one will notice. Or care.
Vera: What will become of American poetry in the future?
JC: I don’t know. Let a hundred flowers bloom. Let a hundred schools of thought contend.
Vera: What poets have influenced you?
JC: It’s a question that, when answered by a poet, in an interview such as this, always seems self-serving to me. I don’t believe in excellence by association anymore than I believe in guilt by association.