Monday, January 13, 2003

Clemens Starck

Featured on September 19, 1997 and January 18, 2003

Clemens Starck is no stranger to the Writer's Series, except that when we showcased him back in 1997, it was the Yachats Writer's Series, and it wasn't "we" because I was just a guy in the audience. And I wasn't sure about this Writer's Series thing either, because, just who were these writers who put on the Series, anyway? I mean, the World Series, yeah, I was okay with that, but a Writer's Series? What was that all about? Was there going to be a Writer's Super Bowl?

Another confusing thing was some of the poetry. I mean, I was starting to feel like one of the yes-men in the Emperor's New Clothes. People would go up to the lectern and read their work, and often I didn't have a clue what it was about. People during intermission would say: gosh that was so great... so-and-so put those words together in such an incredible way... And I'd ask, but what was it about? And they'd all move away from me...

But Clemens Starck was a breath of fresh air. I could understand what the man was saying. I bought his first book, Journeyman's Wages, took it home and I could still understand it. His work, a combination of narrative and reflection beautifully wrought, was actually about something, and I thought that was so cool, like Hamlet and The Odyssey and The Cat in the Hat and Archy and Mehitabel. Words put together simply and wisely to tell a story. What a concept.

Winner of the Oregon Book Award for Poetry and the William Stafford Memorial Poetry Award, Clemens Starck's work is about things he's actually done, structures built, roads traveled, people known, all filtered through an extremely acute sensibility. He worked in the Merchant Marine, did a little cowboying, labored in heavy construction and eventually divined the mysteries of finish carpentry. He taught himself Russian and meditates on the ancient poetry of the Chinese masters. Not surprisingly, he has developed a reputation for being a perfectionist.

His newest book is China Basin.

Please welcome Clemens Starck...

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