"This work is unlike any other, in its range of rich, conjuring imagery and its dexterity, its smart voice. Carroll-Hackett doesn’t spare us—but doesn’t save us—she draws a blueprint of power and class with her unflinching pivot: matter-of-fact and tender." —Jan Beatty

Posts tagged ‘Peter Makuck’

Daily Prompt <3 Returning, and Kindness

Happy National Poetry Month!

When I was fourteen and scribbling poet-y words on every scrap of paper or napkin I put my hands on, Peter Makuck, who ran the Poetry Forum at East Carolina University, was so kind to me, encouraging me to “never stop writing.” That kindness followed me and made me brave, almost twenty years later, when, terrified, I reclaimed my poet self, and went back to college, in my early thirties. The only thing larger than Peter’s big loving heart—is his talent.

Après le Déluge, or How to Return
Peter Makuck

Forget French fads,
paradigms, Foucault and Sartre,
the eggistential toothpick, the semiotic egg,
and the text beyond which there is nothing
but eggheads.

Make the river your own. Rename it the Tar
after its shiny blackness and nothing will fall
routinely into place
like that dogwood, white and dying
for attention at your window.

Tell yourself a room’s the wrong place to receive.
Quit the house like a bad job.
Hand your dead brother the shovel,
shove off in a leaky canoe,
and follow that monarch, its orange flit
above the current.
Immensity will make a return
and every face will offer less
than the smooth cool face of the water.

Let the river teach you
how to steer toward subtle surprise.
Tell me, what even comes close
to this scented air you’ve noticed for the first time?

The sun falls,
anoints the surface with orange oil.
Dark lifts from the water faster than you think.
A meander brings
a soft snicker of owl wings close to your gunnels.
Around the bend, a lamp appears
with a Coleman hiss
and a hunched figure with his hook
pole-tossed in the current.

That’s it, that’s it.
Everything you need is beginning to find you.

Make art about returning. Or about someone whose kindness changed your life.



How Poetry and Peter Makuck Saved My Life

When I was fourteen, my mama drove us in her old battered Pontiac station wagon the dozen miles from where we lived out in the trailer park into town to East Carolina’s campus on a crisp fall Tuesday night. We parked behind the student union, and Mama looked over to where I sat with a sheaf of wrinkled paper clenched in my hands, poems, typewritten on my daddy’s manual typewriter, my teenage angst and effort click-clacking late into the night, transcribed from the bits and pieces in my journals, or scratched on to napkins, or whatever paper I had stuffed in the pockets of my Levis that day.

I was a difficult child, and an even more difficult teenager, mouthy and hungry for things I had no clue about or could even name, obstinate and wild, and angry and defiant, and too easily bored, a particular trait that more often than not led me into self-destructive, even dangerous attempts to a keep myself entertained, and to do something–anything–with the wild demanding thirst–for something–anything–that boiled up and through me all the time.

The only times I felt still, or filled, or not terrified I was gonna miss something, was in the woods, or when I was writing.

Mama got that. So she took me to campus so I could go to a gathering called the Poetry Forum, an open to the public workshop hosted and facilitated for years by the tender, funny, wise, and wise-cracking poet Peter Makuck. I stared down at the papers in my hands, words blurring, and then Mama patted my hand–Mama was a patter of the highest order!–and said, “I’ll be right here.”

So I got out and climbed the steps behind the student union, and walked into my very first workshop. Peter welcomed me like any of the “grown-ups” and 🙂 the readers gathered round that table handed me my fourteen-year-old behind on a platter with the specificity and directness and detail of the critiques they made of my poems that night. I was stunned. But no way was I gonna let them see me cry 🙂 So when the meeting broke up, I said, “Thank y’all,” and headed down the hall, out to where Mama sat in the car (now for two hours), reading one of the thousands of books she read by the weak yellow overhead light in the car. I sniffled back tears, nearing the door, when I heard a voice behind me. “Wait!”

I turned to see Peter trotting down the hall toward me, smiling gently, as he asked, “You okay?”

I nodded. He reached out and patted my arm, saying. “Well, I just wanted to tell you that I think you’re very brave, to come in here so young. And I wanted to say, Don’t quit writing. Never quit writing. You have talent. So yeah, just that. Don’t quit.”

I couldn’t say anything, too afraid I’d cry, so I just nodded. He headed back down the hall, and I walked out into the dark toward my waiting patient Mama.

Seventeen years later, after a decade of believing the story the world told me–that I needed a “real” job, that writing was a childish dream I needed to give up–I was terrified, but still filled with that hunger for things I couldn’t name–desperately so–I pulled up the website for the English Department at ECU, just beginning to harbor hopes of going back to school. What was I thinking? I had three kids, poverty-level income, two failed marriages rife with alcoholism and now single-parenthood defining my twenties. Maybe the naysayers were right; maybe I needed to just grow up.

But then, on the faculty page, I saw Peter’s face. “Don’t quit. Never quit.”

And I saw my mama’s face in that car that night, waiting patiently in that watery parking lot light, while her troubled teenage daughter chased after poetry in the long uncertain dark.

Gratitude. Even after a life now for more than twenty years where words are my work, they fail me here. Can’t even begin to articulate the gratitude.

Never ever ever underestimate the power your kindness can have in a person’s life, nor how far-reaching and long-lasting that kindness can be ❤


Peter’s website: http://www.makuck.com/site/

Peter Makuck

Peter Makuck



















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