In honor of National Poetry Month, we’ve asked poets in our state to read from their own work as well as from the work of a poet they admire.
Rob Carney is the author of six books and three chapbooks of poems, most recently Facts and Figures (2020). The Book of Sharks won the 2019 15 Bytes Book Award for Poetry. He is the winner of the 2013 Terrain.org Poetry Prize and the 2014 Robinson Jeffers/Tor House Foundation Award for Poetry. His work has appeared in Cave Wall, Mid-American Review, and many other journals, as well as Flash Fiction Forward (Norton 2006). He is a Professor of English at Utah Valley University and lives in Salt Lake City.
Carney sent us a few options from his newest collection, Facts and Figures. We asked him to read “Facts 3, 4, 5, 6” because, it seems, we all are feeling a little homesick, for the way things used to be.
Rob Carney reads his poem “Facts 3, 4, 5, 6”
I was a spelling tutor once for three Arab guys—Mohammed, Muhammed, and Khalid. We’d meet and I’d agree that it’s a pitchfork curse, that zoo, blue, shoe, through, view and two shouldn’t rhyme; that heart with part, and haunt with want, and reign with brain were insane—and then we’d go shoot pool. Muhammed was the best at it, an extrovert, always smiling, so on the day he said he didn’t want to, I could tell that he was feeling down. “I miss camels,” he said. “Here there are only cows.” To hell with idioms. He’d hit on a better way to say, “I’m homesick.” And right now, sitting in my house, I’m homesick too. Not for camels, for water.
Astrology tells me there’s a reason for this. My zodiac sign is the Crab, and I’m landlocked. Four-thousand feet above sea level. Utah. But just like with spelling—an e on the end makes the vowel sound long, but not in the case of the number “one”—there must be exceptions. I mean, somewhere there’s bound to be a Taurus (Earth sign) who totally lives to water ski, or a Virgo (another Earth sign) who up and buys a kayak in her thirties, turns herself halfway into an otter, even inventing new coves in her sleep, and new woods with accessible places to launch from. One night she finds her arms moving under the blankets, enough that she wakes herself up: It’s the middle of the night, it’s her bedroom, and the nearly fluid sunlight cutting through the overcast was just a dream. The sound of her paddle dipping, dipping, dipping in the lake was just rain outside getting scooped at her house by wind gusts. The weather and her limbs tuned and rhythmic. Liquid whispers.
Water: Mix it with grain and time, you get whiskey; with pigment and talent, you get art; with salt, and now you have a home for orcas. Mix it with imagining and memory, and I don’t feel quite so homesick anymore.
How do you spell “kayaker”? W-a-t-e-r.
How do you spell “hypnotic”? W-a-t-e-r.
How do you spell “want” and “heart” and “rain”? W-a-t-e-r.
Looking outside his own work, Carney opted to read from the work of Scott Poole.
“I like so much of Scott Poole’s work and have since I met him in Spokane 20 years ago,” Carney says. “But I’m choosing ‘The Tinder Box’ because I like its quick and escalating logic and imagery and voice, and because it’s so human. It’s telling us that the mind is the best fire, and it came before the others. That’s always worth remembering, I think.”
Rob Carney reads Scott Poole’s “The Tinder Box”:
Carney also chose “The Tinder Box” because he and Poole have a book of their new work coming out in August. It’s called The Last Tiger Is Somewhere, published by Portland indie press Unsolicited Press. The book features poems by each that respond to the news, along with a short introduction by Carney and a short afterword by Poole.
Carney’s “Hansel and Gretel” is one you’ll find in the forthcoming book.
UTAH’S ART MAGAZINE SINCE 2001, 15 Bytes is published by Artists of Utah, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.