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Interview with Carl Adamshick
Lisa Wells interviewed Carl Adamshick, winner of the 2010 Whitman Prize, at The Rumpus.
In her intro she describes his “poetry family”:
Tucked among his heroes are early chapbooks from his poetry family, the Dickman twins and Michael McGriff. The four of them have been close for years, sharing work and a love of poems, alongside their “poetry mom” Dorrianne Laux. When Carl won the Whitman Prize for a first book in 2010, she described him as a poet who “has not joined the ranks of the M.F.A./ Ph.D.’s and has never attended a writer’s conference or residency.” A rare breed indeed, and unique among his pals who’ve been awarded, collectively; a Stegner, a Ruth Lilly Fellowship, three Michener Fellowships, the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, three Lannan fellowships, an Alfred Hodder Fellowship, three fellowships to Provincetown, a Honickman Award, a Kate Tufts Discovery award and now, at long last, a Whitman. While his friends were amassing degrees and honors, Carl was working at a print shop in Portland as he had for over a decade, collecting books, and quietly making poems.
Then Curses and Wishes happened and things began to change. He landed a gig teaching at a private school (which he describes as “awesome”) and with McGriff co-founded Tavern Books, a small press dedicated to reviving texts that have fallen out of print or would otherwise have difficulty reaching readers. The first poems of Swedish poet, (and recent winner of the Nobel Prize for literature,) Tomas Tranströmer, for example, and the resuscitation of David Wevill’s poems, whose own infamous associations have eclipsed a worthy body of work.
Adamshick rejects the hype surrounding his clique, but it’s difficult to ignore the association. Fortunately or unfortunately his fate has been tangled in an emerging legend: four improbably tall, successful young poets with working class backgrounds, all easy on the eyes and under the wing of a legendary blue-collar fox. Which is why, I suppose, he’s so reserved at first when we sit down to talk. His disinterest in self-promotion is plain, and the interview should be read with his tone in mind; wary, self-depreciating, somewhat amused.
And, then, she starts with Laux’s proclamation about Adamshick’s “route”:
The Rumpus: Have you ever felt insecure about not going the regular route?
Carl Adamshick: No.
Rumpus: How did you know you didn’t want to?
Adamshick: Well, I didn’t think it was an option. I went to school for a while but I also had to work and at some point it just wasn’t worth it. I could work, go to the library and buy books, and do it on my own.
It’s just taken much longer, I think. If you’re in those writing programs you meet people, you get your name around, you make friends and you’re part of a community, and if you’re not in it … it’s just taken a long time for my book to come out.
Rumpus: How did you come to poetry?
Adamshick: Well, when I turned 21, I hadn’t read a book… ever.
Rumpus: Oh, come on, that’s an exaggeration.
Adamshick: No. I read The Call of the Wild early on, but I never read a book in high school. They were assigned but I didn’t read them. Reading was not part of my life. Then I moved out here and I was feeling kind of dumb, and thought, “I should start reading.”
Rumpus: How old were you when you came out?
Adamshick: I was 21. I was lucky that I picked Portland. There are a lot of book stores, there’s Powell’s, and I lived right by the library. I couldn’t buy books so I just went to the library all the time. I started reading short stories. I read Raymond Carver and that got me to go into the poetry section. It was all over at that point. I haven’t really left that section.
More after the jump.