Your Daily Poem Presents the Poet Profiles
Your Daily Poem invites you to gain a greater understanding of poetry by getting to know our Featured Poet. With each new profile, we'll ask a working poet ten questions, then offer them a chance to share further details about themselves. YDP hopes these interviews will offer insights into the creativity, inspiration, hard work, and serendipity that go into writing a poem.
Poet Profile: Carl Palmer
Carl Palmer, better known to many as "Papa" Palmer, grew up on Old Mill Road in Ridgeway, Virginia but now lives in University Place, Washington. Retired from the military and the Federal Aviation Administration, he currently works as a Franciscan Hospice volunteer. Carl's motto is "Long Weekends Forever!"
Ever notice how folks gather, sit, listen, and smile around a good poem? Like poetry sung in songs by Burl Ives, maybe read from a children's book by Shel Silverstein, or while I snuggled on Mommy's lap listening to her read Mother Goose nursery rhymes as I fell asleep.
How did you come to be a poet?
When my kids were little, I'd strum along on my guitar, finding rhyme in silly ditties for the kiddies and. Once. wrote a song about my hometown. The first line was, "Now I will begin ya a story about Virginia"—a real toe tapper! When I retired in 2004, I joined The Writers Roundtable at the Tacoma Borders Bookstore to try my hand at writing. The most frequent comment from fellow members was, "Your story sounds like a poem." Our group leader submitted several of our stories to HA! Magazine and, sure enough, mine appeared in the poetry section.
Do you have a favorite poet or poem?
"Banked Fires" by Louis L'Amour, from his poetry collection, Smoke from This Altar.
What's the most interesting "poetry pilgrimage" you've ever made?
While stationed at Key West Naval Air Station with the military, I took the popular Hemingway Home tour. Displayed was his six-word story: For Sale/Baby Shoes/Never Worn. Already a huge fan of his stories, I didn't know he wrote poetry, too. Years later, my wife and I, on a transatlantic cruise from Barcelona to Boston with a port call in Portugal, ate at Restaurante Hemingway, bought a bottle of Madeira wine, and witnessed the popular wicker toboggan ride made famous by Papa Hemingway in his writings. We didn't do the ride, but we did save the wine for our 50th wedding anniversary.
In the great scheme of things, where does poetry fit in?
In our hurry-up society where folks don't have the time, desire, or attention span to read anything for very long, poetry provides pause. Seeing something short enough to read without having to turn the page, something only taking a moment, perhaps enjoying it enough to read again, perhaps share, perhaps only then realizing it was actually a poem.
What's the most absurd thing you've ever written a poem about?
After studying three books about writing a breakout novel while my wife and I were on vacation in Acapulco, I brought home a poem.
Describe your writing routine and/or process.
Writing begins with reading. My reading begins in my email inbox with Your Daily Poem and Poetry Daily, where I find a new favorite poet most every day. I also follow Ted Kooser's American Life in Poetry and Brain Pickings by Maria Popova. Author bio-sketches are my most productive source to find out what's being written and where it's being published. I don't structure, plan, or schedule when to write. I was forced to that when I worked, and writing a poem shouldn't be work.
When/where are you most inspired?
Our Puget Sound Poetry Connection here in Tacoma presents "The Distinguished Writer Series" every second Friday evening, featuring a noted poet followed by open mic (now virtual because of this virus). Come join us at pugetsoundpoetryconnection.org
Which classic poet would you most like to meet, and why?
Joel Chandler Harris (1848-1908), creator of Uncle Remus, a black fictional character in one of the first movies I ever saw, Song of the South. I dreamt to be that little boy on the screen with him and his cartoon friends as he narrated African fables, many poking lighthearted fun at white folks. Years later I read Uncle Remus Captures a Dream, an "eye dialect poem" by Harris, part of the reason his work was banned in public school libraries. Though Uncle Remus was first written in 1881 and on screen in 1946, it was 1987 when Uncle Remus was labeled as being racist, along with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Uncle Tom's Cabin. I'd love to hear what Harris would have to say about race relations today in America.
Is there some consistent trademark or characteristic that you've discovered in your poetry?
This poem pretty much sums up my style:
not actually how it may have happened
but maybe how I wish it would have
occurred or could come about if ever
that circumstance should emerge again
as an author I am able to alter any event
change outcomes actions and answers
make it different and do it all over again
when or wherever by use of written words
perhaps hoping you'll read what I wrote
believe that it really did happen that way
possibly change more than just the story
maybe change how I get along with you
Anything else you'd like to share--advice, anecdotes, forthcoming adventure, etc?
My Daughter has two daughters
each name begins with "A"—Alexis and Aundrea. My son has three sons; each name begins with "B"—Brady, Beckett and Brett. And here they call me a poet!
A big thank you to Carl for taking time to tell us a bit about himself. Read his poems in the YDP archives or connect with him at https://www.facebook.com/carlpapa.palmer.1/.