Thomas Carper: Miniaturist of the Grand Scale

By Corrie, Daniel | Modern Age, Summer 2004 | Go to article overview

Thomas Carper: Miniaturist of the Grand Scale


Corrie, Daniel, Modern Age


            GETTING IT RIGHT

For D.A.

   He sits before the blank page of his mind,
   Adrift in possibility. A thought
   Is deeply felt, but masked beneath a white
   Opaqueness which, he senses, may be
     brought
   Into such clarity that he will find
   The sentence he desires to get right.

   As wind might toss a paper to the ground
   Creating movement, suddenly it's there,
   Alive in English meaning, word on word:
   A confident procession where we share
   His celebration of idea in sound
   At once both ours and strangely over
      heard.

   Who is his listener, then? And who is he?
   The one who wrote the phrases on a
      page
   No longer is the person that the new
   Discovery seems intended to engage
   In dialogue. The listener once was me,
   But have I vanished? Is the listener you?

                      --Thomas Carper

ALTHOUGH THE NEW FORMALIST movement is much discussed these days, the poetry of one of the finest American formalist poets tends to be significantly overlooked. Although Thomas Carper has had two books published by Johns Hopkins University Press since 1991, the 67-year-old poet's work has been reviewed in only one national American publication (a page-and-a-half review by R. S. Gwynn in the Hudson Review). Ironically, the most serious critical analysis of Carper's work has been published in Germany. A recent issue of Anglistik featured a 14-page overview of American New Formalism by Franz Link, one of Germany's leading Americanists; the article's first half discussed the writers usually associated with that movement, and the article's second half was devoted entirely to Carper's poetry.

His poetry resembles Robert Frost's in embodying clear thought in clear statement, ranging in a spectrum from homey exposition to elegant restraint. Though Carper's poetry encompasses a varied range of focus from the amusing to the ironic to the poignant to the cosmic, readers in search of the stylistically pyrotechnic or avant-garde should be warned that Carper's poetry consistently demonstrates an affinity for Apollonian moderation in tone and traditionalism in rhyme and meter.

Carper's easygoing equanimity and clarity of statement and logic are exemplified in "Sisyphus' Pet Rock" (From Nature), which also demonstrates Carper's quietly ironic sense of humor and tendency to express ideas through parables:

  I have my rock, my hill. So, every day
  My task, though hard, is known. And as I
     roll
  My rock, its weight seems always to
     convey
  A certain satisfaction to the soul.
  Near sunset-time, just before I can see
  The highest point, I purposely let go.
  My rock responds and, thanks to gravity,
  Takes its own way back to the plain
    below.
  I follow willingly, our duties done,
  And grateful that another day's in store,
  And glad to think my rock and I are one
  In labor and in meaning. Surely, more
  Is not to be expected; surely we
  Will have our task throughout eternity.

In part, "Sisyphus' Pet Rock" distills an attitude of acceptance which pervades Carper's work, in both his amusing and serious poems. His poems attempt to maintain a basic optimism in the face of the many potential trials provided by life and acknowledged in his poetry, as he himself writes elsewhere, "... The structure of a happy destiny/ That finds fulfillment in the smallest things ...." ("Kingdoms"). Furthermore, "Sisyphus' Pet Rock" distills Carper's workmanly attitude toward the writing of poetry. Like his portrayal of Sisyphus, Carper tends to write one line of iambic pentameter after another until one sonnet is completed, at which time the rock rolls to the hill's bottom for the process cheerfully to resume. While Carper's two books contain several deviations from the English sonnet, the deviations are rare, and no poem in either of the collections deviates from iambic pentameter, as Carper writes, ".. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Thomas Carper: Miniaturist of the Grand Scale
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.