Interview With Brendan Galvin
Dr. Brendan Galvin presently holds the Whichard Distinguished Chair in the Humanities this semester at East Carolina University. He has published numerous books of poetry including No Time For Good Reasons (1974), The Minutes No One Owns (1977), Winter Oysters (1983), Seals in the Inner Harbor (1986), Sky and Island Light (1997), Hotel Malabar (1998), and The Strength of a Named Thing (1999). Born outside of Boston, Massachusetts in 1938, Galvin was educated at Boston College, Northeastern University, and the University of Massachusetts. He has been writer-in-residence at Hollins College, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Connecticut College, Loyola University in New Orleans, and Western Carolina University. Dr. Galvin has also received numerous awards including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 1988. Keep an eye out for his next book, Place Keepers, due out in the fall of 2003 from Louisiana State University Press.
TCR: Is there any one person you could point to and say, "This person had the most to do with my becoming a poet?"
Galvin: Yes, I think probably Robert Frost because when I was an undergraduate at Boston College he read from his poems there every year. Some summers I actually worked construction on some of the places in New England he wrote about, and I got a pretty strong visual sense of the places he was writing about. I also discovered that I knew a lot of his poems by heart; they had memorized me -- it wasn't that I set out to memorize him. I still know a tremendous amount of his work word for word because it just kind of connected with me. I was actually seated behind Robert Frost on the stage for the last reading he gave before he passed away. The reason I was sitting on the stage was because the girl I was with was the last person through the door, but this kindly Boston cop unlocked the door and let me in, and we both ended up behind Frost on the stage with about ten other people. He was stumbling through the reading a little bit, but the hall was packed. It was kind of a funny experience and then a month later, he was gone.
TCR: You've been awarded several honors over your career and which of those do you think you are most proud of and why?
Galvin: I never think in those terms. I'm always happy to receive them because they usually come as a surprise. I don't court anyone to try and get any awards. I'll admit I was delighted to get a Guggenheim because that gave me a lighter teaching schedule, a year off, and it is a highly recognized award. But, I'm happy about all of the awards I've received, especially when you consider that most days no one pays attention to your work.
TCR: What is poetry to you?
Galvin: The daily business of getting the world right. That's almost a quote from Wallace Stevens, but that strikes me as being true. The poet is trying to explain the world to himself on a regular basis, and if it happens that some people overhear what he's saying to himself, then he's got an audience, and I suppose he hopes other people will understand the wavelength he is on and see it as tangential to their own. That line is from a group of prose statements called "Adagia" which has a lot of very interesting things to say about poetry. [See Wallace Stevens's "Adagia" written in 1957.]
TCR: Now that you are semi-retired from teaching, do you find you are writing more now?
Galvin: Yes, because when I'm not teaching or doing a visiting stint someplace, I find that I don't have a lot of preparations to make that take my mind and energy away from what's on the page or in my notebooks, and I can just get up in the morning, have breakfast and work as long as I want without any interruption or without having to think about something that's going to distract me from it.
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