A conversation with former York Poet Laureate Carol Clark Williams

Carol Clark Williams, York poet

One of the first poets I became acquainted with on moving to the area is Carol Clark Williams. I’m grateful my boyfriend is proud of what I do and talks me up to people he meets because when his and Carol’s paths crossed at Central Market a few months ago, she mentioned being a writer and suddenly I was receiving emails inviting me to poetry events all over the place. Yes, please! Here, Carol and I discuss Yorkarts and how to characterize the poetry scene in York County and beyond:

Tell me about your development as a writer, and what poetry means to you.

I have been writing poetry since I discovered it in elementary school. I describe poetry as my backbone. It is an integral part of who I am, my consuming interest, and my therapist.

I won my first competition sponsored by the Pennsylvania Poetry Society in 1972, joined the PPS, became a board member, and so on. My favorite current membership is with the Mad Poets, who are active in Media, PA, and host a poetry festival there on the first Sunday of October.

I offer single and six-week-series poetry workshops through Yorkarts, who have been extremely supportive. When I was poet laureate, the Yorkarts director and I sponsored a weekend poetry gig called WordWorks, with workshops and featured readings. I also facilitate the Poetry Spoken Here tent at Yorkfest every August, with a great line-up of local and “imported” poets.

What is Yorkpoets, how did it begin, and where is it going now?

York has a very active poetry community that began in—maybe—1992 at Martin Library with a workshop series by Jack Veasey. Four of us banded together to begin a poetry support group which met once a week upstairs in the Cherry Lane Yorkarts building. We actually paid dues! Eventually some of us opted for poetry readings, the rest for critiques, and the group split into various lively smithereens.

How would you characterize the literary/poetry community in York City? York County? Southeastern PA? The greater Mid-Atlantic region? What’s the absolute best thing about it, and what do you or would you love to see change or evolve?

Boomin’. There are so many opportunities to read and listen in York and Lancaster County—Wordwide, Poetry Spoken Here, the Lancaster Poetry Exchange, Convergence, Hanover critique group, the Ragged Edge in Gettysburg—good poets working hard at their craft. You could attend a poetry venue here almost every evening of the week.

Baltimore and DC have fabulous poetry meetings and readings. The poets I have met from there—Barbara DeCesare, Julie Fisher, Dan Maguire , Kim Roberts, Mark Sanders, Chris Toll,—too many to mention—innovative, crazy-creative people full of new ideas, writing techniques, fascinating poetry presentations.

Who are some of your favorite regional poets (and their books/publications, etc.)?

Le Hinton, editor of Iris G Press, Jeff Rath, Barbara DeCesare, Mark Sanders, Melissa Carl, again, too many to mention.

What events shouldn’t I miss as a poet living in this region?

Well, of course you should be attending Poetry Spoken Here the first Monday of every month, 7:00 PM at City Arts Studio, 118 West Philadelphia Street, York.

Barbara DeCesare and Chris toll’s Benevolent Armchair, which meets on a Sunday afternoon in York at Yorkarts, the next month in Baltimore at the Bromo Tower at 3:00 PM. April’s event is the 22nd of this month in Baltimore.

Yorkarts and the York Poet Laureate, Carla Juliana Christopher, are holding a poetry reception and day of workshops’ this weekend, June 13 and 14, at Yorkarts, 10 North Beaver Street, York, beginning Friday at 7:00 pm.

Will you share a poem with me and the readers of YDR, in honor of National Poetry Month?

To Teach You Poetry

if I could,

I would hold out my hands to you.
with every poem that has marked my mind

tattooed along splayed fingers,
painted in polish on the nails.

Williams’ “El Hombre” etched beneath my ring,
Millay’s “Mariposa” on the Mount of Venus,

Henley’s “Invictus” striding up the lifeline
in large red capitals. The names of poets:

William Stafford inscribed across my knuckles,
Billy Collins circling my wristbone,

Robert Frost and Linda Pastan needled deep
into the suicide vein. And if you would

take my extended hands, the lines of ink
would transfuse from my skin to your arteries,

wash the heart in effervescent waves,
seizing and releasing, widening, coloring,

hammering at the thick dark muscle wall
in ancient iambic rhythms.

Originally published in Fledgling Rag
© Carol Clark Williams October 2006

Thanks, Carol!

Have you written a poem you’d like to see on this blog? “Submit” your verse to me at sfleegal@ydr.com for a chance to share it with other YDR blog readers!

About Stacia M. Fleegal

York Daily Record multiplatform journalist. Degrees in creative writing from Lycoming College and Spalding University, and a coupla books with my name on them. Central PA native who came home after floating around for a while, but always grounded by words and the places and people I remember.
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One Response to A conversation with former York Poet Laureate Carol Clark Williams

  1. Pingback: Versify | February Poem of the Month contest winner!

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