Poet Richard Eberhart's Foreword to FACE OF POETRY& Clark's Gleanings from writers photographed

Posted May 22, 2005
Last Updated Jun 21, 2012
Richard Eberhart in FOCUS 101
`Richard Eberhart?s FOREWORD to THE FACE OF POETRY
LaVerne Harrell Clark has a sprightly idea which is to show the best and characteristic pictures from the many shots of poets she has taken over the last decades. This book has a warm human interest, delights us with a casual, non-formal approach to her subjects so that the viewer may, in fact, see what the poets look like, off-hand, when they were not posing.

Americans may read poetry for years without seeing pictures of the poets. Quite a number of anthologists, of whom the first I recall was Oscar Williams, published pictures of poets along with their poems, which heightened the interest of such volumes. In this case, it is the pictures alone (plus one poem) so that the readers of each poet may enjoy a new look of their man or woman, or may be intrigued to read the work of some poet they now see for the first time.

The poets in this book are young, or old, and some are now dead, increasing the value of LaVerne Clark's photographs of them a while ago.

It is a fascinating subject. Most historical poets are known by perhaps only one set picture and before our times only by portraits or drawings. I recall for decades only one picture of Hardy, stiff, formal, impersonal, without feeling. I saw a picture of John Donne a year ago ornately dressed, as elaborately tricked out as Queen Elizabeth. How interesting if we had off-hand, informal depictions of these. How did Milton look when walking in London? What did Blake really look like, or Keats, or Shelley, or Byron? How did Hopkins look when teaching a class? I never felt very close to any of the old historical poets from seeing their formal depictions, but now in this century a photographer can increase a reader's interest by doing what LaVerne Clark does so well in this focus on the chance moment, a special moment of being.

I am grateful to her for snapping her quick shutter in each case in this attractive book, allowing a social hour ro the viewers.

-Richard Eberhart

(Excerpted from "An Interview with LaVerne Harrell Clark," BY Christopher Woods, CROSS TIMBERS REVIEW [Spring,1987],pp. 13-15. Note: Woods' credits appear with FOCUS 101 article,3):

CLARK - .... If I have a dry period, rather than wasting my time biting my typewriter in half, I'll just turn to my non-fiction for awhile. C. Day Lewis taught me that one. He said he had long ago learned that he was going to have these dry times, that there was going to be an ebb and flow to things, and that he couldn't always be with the flow. So he handled it by doing his poetry at certain times. Then, in dry seasons for poetry, he would turn to his translation work. In my case, I try to mix up my fiction with my non-fiction.
. . . .
WOODS - Who are some of the other short story writers who appeal to you? Who does LaVerne Harrell Clark like to read?

CLARK - I read all the classics. Presently,[1987] among my favorites are Eudora Welty and Flannery O'Connor. Contemporary favorites would be Bobbie Ann Mason, particularly her Shilo And Other Stories. And I have admiration for some of the stories of Alice Walker. I like some of the stories of Alice Adams. I'm naming mostly women.

WOODS - What about William Goyen?

CLARK - I don't know his work well enough. I've admired a lot of the work of Raymond Carver, though.

WOODS - Both you and Raymond Carver are writing stories now. His work belongs to the spare-style school, which is very much in vogue right now. Your work is not at all like that.

CLARK - I took a course from Carver up at Port Towsend, and he liked my story, "The Sign From Luke XVIII," a lot. But that was just a three day workshop.

WOODS - Is there room for all these styles?

CLARK - I think so. Raymond Carver said something recently that I very much agreed with. He said he saw a lot of connections between poetry and short story. A lot of people see more connections between short stories and the novel. He saw a very strong
connection between the form of the short story and the poem. He also said that when he got his first volume of short stories published, someone said to him like someone once said to Eudora Welty, "When is your novel coming out?" I'm not knocking the novel. Maybe I'll write one someday too. But I don't think a short story writer need necessarily write a novel first, and then the short stories.

WOODS - Chekhov didn't feel that way, did he?

CLARK - No. The short story is a form to be proud of, a form to respect, and a form as important as the novel. Ray Carver told us in the class that he accepted a check from a publisher to write a novel, and without any feeling of remorse or whatever, he turned around and wrote a book of short stories. He wasn't going to write that novel. I think there's room for all these styles, and that we can learn a lot from one another. My style isn't much like John Updike's either, but I have great admiration for his work."


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Poet Richard Eberhart

Like most of the contributors to Clark\'s companion volumes, poet Richard Eberhart, who died this summer (\'05), is featured in different poses, both dating to March, 1971. Clark took this picture of him that appears in the anthology on an after-dinner walk down a hillside from her Tucson home to include a saguaro (giant cactus) he told her he admired.

Poet-writer Archibald MacLeish

Likewise, poet-writer Archibald MacLeish, seen in Clark\'s study (Nov.1965) in FOCUS 101 also belonged to the kind of older poet that Eberhart had in mind in his Foreword. MacLeish wrote Clark he and his wife Ada liked the contrasting studies she made of him for each volume so much that he was sending them to PEMBROKE Magazine to be used in the special Issue (#7,1976) honoring him. It included tributes from poets, scholars & essayists concerning his many contributions to this nation on its 200th anniversary. PEMBROKE chose the portrait in the anthology as the full page photo introducing the tributes.

Robert Conley, Cherokee Poet

At the time of this photo, Cherokee poet-novelist Robert Conley, who then had only one book, 21 POEMS, to his credit, belonged to the kind of promising younger poet, Richard Eberhart, in his foreword, was referring to as being included in the volumes Pictured in Billings, Montana, in June of 1976, Conley now lists 10 books of fiction and non-fiction, and has left the college teaching career he was then pursuing to write full time from his home in Tahlequah, OK, capitol of the Cherokee Nation. However, his meeting with Clark for this photo session did mark a turn in his career, for following it, he attended with Clark a reception of the Western Writers of America\'s convention then underway in Billings. He liked the organization so much he then joined it, and the contacts he later made with publishers through his own participation as a member did help propell the promise she could already see his writing held.