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Solidus Online



Mark DeCarteret

FEASTS/Week 44

st dorothy of montau


now we’ve awoken
non-known & un-avowed-for—
none but one a nun


st quentin


washed ashore I was
still more the sea’s than the land’s—
blind as some mob’s law


all saints


we followed those clowns
& fools down, full of ourselves,
aloof, now hollow


all souls


all our souls are lost
to us—till dead-stared & stalled
they rate less than dust


st hubert of lieges


I’m dogged by these gods
foaming-mad, mouthing-off—
I matter more tamed


st charles borromeo


the apple he peels
appears to sleep on his lap—
mirror-pale from leap


st elizabeth


you awoke in my
womb, your bruin-grumblings miked as
I bowed kidding-like

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Interview with Mark DeCarteret
by Cristina Paone


Cristina: Congratulations on your latest publication “Flap”; do you have another anthology in the works?

Mark: Actually, I already have several books cued up and ready to go. About all I’m missing is a publisher! There’s Spirit Board which has a highly stylized/concentrated (on) variety of poem, almost toxic due to those long nights in the lab. And mis-reading which has poems more voice-activated and less toiled-at, detailed. I’ve also Nana Dharma, a gathering of witticisms/adages from a fictitious elderly woman out of Lowell Massachusetts whose observations are Old World practicality cut with a near Zen detachment. And then Feasts, a flip-book of haiku in which I pilfer from the lives of the saints, daily inflicting even more abuse on their already ill-treated body of works. Not to mention a novel Off Season.

Cristina: Have you ever been faced with the phenomena of writer's block? If so, is there something that you use to push through it?

Mark: I first fancied myself a writer back in my teens. But had no knack, or what… wherewithal? And even less confidence, why-for. I was turning out heavily scripted epic-starts on princesses, elves. Most of it so silly and canned, flimsy and shallow, that I eventually drew more and more blanks and ended up shelving it for ten years. What snapped me out of it? I guess checking into Emerson College. Where Sam Cornish one time lent me a (seemingly) random word (yes, it was “useless” and yes, it was stage-lit like a dime-store talisman and yes, it was everything I was feeling about everything) and another time told me to get my hands on a newspaper and simply see to the world and let go of the rest. And then I picked up some Ashbery. And saw yet another way of saying it. The self/being swallowed up, singing its swan song. O what a relief not having to answer for anything but what one was given to cobble back into mattering!

Cristina: Do you have a “signature” to your poetry? An element that is uniquely your creation?

Mark: Every bit of it has been freebooted, robbed. Or at least borrowed for a spell. It’s all about knowing what strongbox to break into. And what it’s got to offer. Most of it can be followed back to Modernism. Or the brand of microwave we shock it to life. I think Lowell made it official. Regardless of whether his monsters filed their taxes. Though I have invented my own form. It’s called FOR. Where one writes a poem with no words more than three letters long.

Cristina: How would you classify your overall writing style?

Mark: I can’t kick the grotesque. All that is overblown, bowled-over-with-love. The doubled-up-on. And put-into-quotes. Like those poor “saints.” So offbeat and a-wobble, oft-banged-up, beneath the squinted-eye of God.

Cristina: Is there any piece of advice or inspiration you would like to offer aspiring writers?

Mark: Something makes do. Mostly a riff on Stein’s “Use everything.” Which was mostly a riff on her teacher William James’ “Never reject anything.” Which was mostly a riff on… ? At least with us poets there sure isn’t this incessant need to sue!


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Mark DeCarteret
Born in Lowell Massachusetts in 1960 Mark DeCarteret graduated from Emerson College with a B.F.A. in Creative Writing in 1990 and from the University of New Hampshire with an M.A. in English-Writing in 1993, the recipient of the Thomas Williams Memorial Poetry Prize. Since then his poetry has appeared in over 300 literary reviews including AGNI, Boston Review, Chicago Review, Conduit, Phoebe, Poetry East, Salt Hill, and Third Coast, as well as such anthologies as American Poetry: The Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon Press), Places of Passage: Contemporary Catholic Poetry (Story Line Press), Thus Spake the Corpse: An Exquisite Corpse Reader 1988-1998 (Black Sparrow Press), and Under the Legislature of Stars: 62 New Hampshire Poets (Oyster River Press) which he also co-edited. Mark has five books: Over Easy (Minotaur Press, 1990), Review: A Book of Poems (Kettle of Fish Press, 1995), The Great Apology (Oyster River Press, 2001), (If This Is the) New World (March Street Press, 2007), and Flap (Finishing Line Press, 2011). He was Portsmouth New Hampshire’s seventh Poet Laureate.