I was getting dinner alone at a diner a few weeks ago, I saw a group of people swarming in from the cold. A motley of folks, probably not relate, or maybe so. “You. Pick a person. Go on pick ‘em. Got ‘em? Okay. Good.” It must’ve been an office, given their attire, and some were shivering. “Now list some of thier physical attributes,/make them seem as though they are significant.” As I stared into the cut section of my turkey BLT wrap, I went on Instagram and scrolled a bit. And there it was. “Go on, take your time,/Make it flow, in a line./Move from one instant to the next, to another.” I saw he was posting story updates while on his night shift. I knew what I had to do. “What is happened and what has not happened/Are divided by the present.” The group of office workers took their seat in front of me; multi-colored heads divided by a worn cushion stapled on wood. “Make a memory, make it matter, breed nonsense,/Take charge, describe the smell of lemons,.” I waved down the server. “More water with a lemon, please.”
Josh Dale: Thanks for allowing me to interview you! I think I first was acquainted with you through Facebook and then ultimately at a reading in Allentown or Easton. Do you enjoy the literary and arts community you frequent?
The Carlton: Ah, the Summer of Brandon Diehl's I Hate Poetry events, yes. I have a pretty long history of people meeting my 'social media personality', seeing me perform and getting to know me off "stage"and realizing there's a distinct difference, so, yeah, this is a pretty typical tale of how it works nowadays, isn't it?
As for the arts communities I frequent, living in The Poconos puts me in an interesting place because I'm an hour away from pretty much everywhere and that's great. It keeps things special enough, you know? The personalities we meet, I somehow love and loathe them. There was a time where I'd been summarily asked to leave every poetry event in the Wyoming Valley. I remember, as a result, I started my own monthly event, The Third Friday Spoken Word Event to a large success. Sometimes, having as many of seventy people attending a poetry reading/open mic. It's peaks and it's valleys, I suppose. All in all, I've met some of my favorite people as a result of performing and been allowed to do things that, by all intents and purposes, poets aren't typically invited to do. Networking with musicians, comedians and the like has certainly helped book those bigger shows and I'll always feel pretty hip about that since I've always gone over best with a less "proper" crowd. It's poetry-it's supposed to be fun!
JD: Care to explain your academic career (in brief)? From what you told me once, you surely have the credentials!
TC: Well, I mean, it's often discussed on stage, but for anyone who hasn't seen me perform or what have you, the story goes as follows: I made some... legal mistakes as a preteen and that were followed by a series of "failing upwards", if you would. Graduating high school young made me look good to colleges and the 1990s, being what they were, scholarships were an easier thing to come by. The classrooms and lecture halls came easier to me than some, but being the kind of fella who made being overeducated and underemployed a life goal means my Master's and PhD are in Communications and I've never actually used them professionally. Accomplishing goals is important, so I often remind my boss at the Diner how important it is that he use the correct honorific when speaking to me.
JD: Your chapbook, #%$&ing Rockstar, reads differently than your performances. For example, the opening piece, “15%”, is one of my personal favorites live, and by reading it, it conjures the memory of the performance in lieu of ingesting the poem as-is on paper. I may be biased here, but what do people talk about your work in written form?
TC: I remember that piece and "Insurgents" being where we realized the book would be a way to show I wasn't just some schmuck mouthing off at the front of a room making academic poets squirm. Like, I work hard on the pieces I perform. Probably harder than folks would think. Before the book, the feedback was always on the reading and never the words. Post-book, it was much more telling that folks latched onto key lines or themes. I won't lie, I'm proud of what we did with that chap. For a book made 100% DIY by a couple amateurs with litte to no experience in assembling poetry collections, it looks damned professional.
JD: During your performances, your interludes act as an op-ed for something that’s been “nagging” you, or at the very least in the front of your mind. Any topic that didn’t go well with the audience? Any that were almost too good?
TC: I guess that time I told a room filled with cover musicians how it was total malarkey that I wasn't allowed to just come up to the mic and read David Lerner poems and that I "Hope they all get cancer and die" was probably a little far, but watching the entirety of some bar in Nowhere, Pennsylvania turn on me was a pretty good high. How's that for a low?
The weird banter between bits started as a tension breaker for my nerves, but it's led to a lot of MC-ing gigs and helped The Carlton be known as more of a personality than just a poet which means, sometimes, I can work without the notebooks and that's pretty darn swell to me.
JD: Your magnum opus seems to be these hashtags #nomorepoems and #stopmakingbadart2k16. To summarize, what are their purposes? Is there any long-term goal for these, especially the bookmark-poems you gave me?
TC: #nomorepoems was always just a way of me mocking the high school-ish dramatics that we see in our art's cultures. I had a bit of a ridiculous meltdown in a gas station after seeing some silliness at a show I'd attended one night and decided, as we all should do at some point or another, I was D-O-N-E with poetry. That lasted, like, a month. Maybe. I somehow decided to take this all a bit more seriously, started working on the chap, had t-shirts printed, called in some favors and then went full-force at booking these very DIY punk-style variety shows with musicians, comedians, performance artists and even the occasional poet. We had a good run showing folks that perhaps poets could be rockstars, too. 11/10 would recommend.
JD: Any performances lined up for The Carlton in the near future?
TC: The Carlton is on stage as this is posted in His current hometown of Stroudsburg for a rescheduled show celebrating His birthday. Last week's snowstorm kind of threw everyone for a loop, but we endure. Show business and what have you. Also, June 7th, I'll be at Coffeehouse Without Limits with Niki Elizabeth and a few other cool faces. Come on out, should be a gas!
JD: It must be a bit disheartening when you Google “The Carlton” and virtually all the results come back with Carlton Banks and his memorable dance.
TC: Sometimes in life, you're born the same day as your grandfather and you get named after him. Sometimes in life, you just get so tired of spelling your last name for folks. Sometimes in life, a sitcom comes out in your adolescence and you get to hear about this silly mishegoss forever. You either embrace it or you own it. The Rabbis say we have two jobs in this life: To learn and to cope. I suppose coping is a consequence sometimes in life.
JD: You have the most comprehensive Vans collection in all of Pennsylvania, possibly the entire country. How do you stave off the contempt of so many shoes?
TC: I mean, I did just cop that new patchwork collection and I'm all about the MTE for the winter. Still dig my PF Flyers and Doc Martens, though.
JD: If you had to pick a single metal alloy, which one would you be? (Not counting fictional like vibranium, adamantium, etc.)
TC: Probably some sort of stainless steel. They use chromium to make that, right? Definitely have some sort of a chrome finish on me, while still just being a plain lile of sturdiness inside.
JD: Thank you, Carlton, for the interview! It was a blast. We will see you next week on The Weekly Degree with some more poems.