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Christopher Cartmill talks Tennyson, handy sonnets, and P.D. Eastman

By Poetry Foundation

Actor and playwright Christopher Cartmill performs Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Idylls of the King this Friday at the Art Institute of Chicago. He took a moment to talk to Harriet about his favorite—and least favorite—words.


What line or poem do you find yourself sharing again and again?

There’s a line from “Idylls of the King: The Passing of Arthur,” when Arthur is preparing to be taken away on the magical barge to Avalon and he consoles his last knight, Sir Bedivere:
The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
On your bookshelf but unread:
Elizabeth Bishop: The Complete Poems 1927-1979. It was given to me by a friend who said that she would have something important to say. I haven’t had the time yet to listen. The Fabrication of Louis XIV is also on my nightstand but isn’t calling so loud.

Can you remember the first poem you read and really liked?
Does “Go, Dog. Go!” count? I liked that a great deal when I was a kid. When I was a teen I memorized “Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29”. I thought it would come in handy. The Sonnets do. There’s nothing quite so good as being able to toss one out an opportune romantic moment.

A cause you would attach your name to:
Education reform.

The picture that comes to mind when you hear the word “poetry”:
A well-proportioned vase.

If forced to quote your own writing, what line or poem would you provide?
Never condemn the exceptional picture for being framed poorly. From the play La Chasse.

Expression you greatly dislike:
“Don’t go there.” As in, “Oh, don’t say that” or “Don’t bring that up.” It’s cowardly and more than a little passive-aggressive. We don’t go there enough.

The longest amount of time you’ve gone without writing [creatively]?
Long enough to have felt it in my body.

Favorite public figure:
This type question is hard…so many…they change with…oh, well…
Current favorite and dead: Voltaire
Current favorite and living: Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns

Favorite literary device:
Poetic license.

When I think of Chicago, I think of:
Deep dish pizza, Louis Sullivan, great theater and the smell of chocolate in the air around the Near North and the Gold Coast.

Posted in Uncategorized on Tuesday, November 30th, 2010 by Poetry Foundation.