The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Clemens Starck Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Janice Dilg.

July 30, 2015


“A Good Mechanic Can Always Find Work”  July 30, 2015  Location: Starck residence, Dallas, Oregon.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Starck discusses the details of his working and creative life, stopping at points to read a selection of his poems.

The session begins with a recounting of Starck's upbringing in New York state, including his memories of the war years, his abbreviated stint as an undergraduate at Princeton University, and early jobs that he held as, variously, a journalist, ranch hand, construction laborer and merchant seaman. He likewise outlines his evolution as a writer, noting the key importance of the Bread Loaf Writers Conference; the emergence of poetry as his preferred literary form; his development as a poet in locations including Taos, New Mexico and the San Francisco Bay Area; his perspective on the construction of a poem; and the role that receiving awards has played in his writing life.

Starck next reflects on his connection with Oregon State University. He describes the circumstances by which his family set down roots in Oregon, his initial work in heavy construction, his arrival at OSU in 1986, and the range of duties that he assumed as a carpenter working for the Physical Plant. From there, he shares his memories of the atmosphere on the OSU campus during his years of association, including the indifference shown toward his work by the university's humanities faculty. He then recalls a more fruitful relationship that he established with the English department at Willamette University, where he taught and made connections with colleagues who enabled his interest in studying Russian and traveling in Russia.

As the interview nears its conclusion, Starck lends his thoughts on the usefulness of anonymity to a writer, the dichotomy of his work as a carpenter and a poet, and his activities in retirement. The session ends with remarks on family and the reading of a final poem.