This month on Late Night Debut we’ll feature Carl Adamshick’s poetry collection, Curses and Wishes. Carl’s debut collection is the winner of the 2010 Walt Whitman Award, and he was recently named the 2012 Stafford/Hall Oregon Book Award winner. Along with Michael McGriff, he is also a founding editor of Tavern Books, a not-for-profit organization that revives books that have fallen out of print and publishes poetry in translation from around the world.
The majority of the poems in Curses and Wishes are brief and guided by images that linger like found photographs tucked into used books at the Good Will. They capture a sense of stillness that almost seems archaic in the face of everyday chaos. I recommend reading it while trapped inside during a snowstorm, or sitting on a front porch couch before dawn.
I recently caught up with Carl who kindly answered some questions for our listeners and readers.
Can you name a few debut works that you admire, or that have influenced your writing?
Carl Adamshick: Well… Yes. I love first books. I especially love first poems in first books. I often try to see if there is anything in those first poems that might speak to, or encapsulate a poet’s career. If career is the right word.
That being said, Cruelty by Ai, is a book that has been influential. It is a book I go back to. Its first poem, Twenty-Year Marriage, is a very memorable persona poem.
Too Bright to See by Linda Gregg is excellent. Stan Rice’s Whiteboy, Malena Mörling’s Ocean Avenue, Burning the Empty Nest by Gregory Orr are all books I would recommend and find to be important first books.
How long was Curses and Wishes in the works before it found a publisher?
CA: I’d say a good five years. There are poems in the book that are ten or eleven years old, but the book, in the shape it finally took, isn’t that old. I sent it to first book contests for a few years before the Academy of American Poets, and Marvin Bell chose to publish it. In a way, I think of Curses and Wishes as a thing selected.
I have found publishing humbling. I think the goal is to write poems not books. Books are a glorious result to the pure pursuit of writing.
Reflecting on the your collection’s reception, is there anything you would have done differently in the debut publishing process?
CA: Nope. The Academy of American Poets has done a great job supporting the book. What one should keep in mind is that I only sent my manuscript to places I thought would do good by it. Often, books die on the shelf, quickly. Don’t send to publishers you don’t think are equipped to support your book. Have faith.
How has your experience been working with a university press?
CA:They are very professional and hands off. The Portland literary scene is known for its inclusiveness and mutual support. Can you talk about the effect this had on your debut experience?
CA: Well, we are a town of readers. And readers buy books! So, one effect is that sales are good. But the inclusiveness and support often comes in the making of the art. If I didn’t have that I won’t have a book.
What inspired your nonprofit, Tavern Books, and what are you aspirations for its future?
CA:International! Tavern Books started because Michael McGriff and I love books and talking about books. We saw a need to publish books that had gone out of print, simply because we wanted to talk to others about what we loved.
Can you share some wisdom or advice for emerging writers?
CA: Keep your part-time job. Want less. Artists are the happiest people you will ever meet. Be one of them.