Clemens Starck's first book of poems, Journeyman’s Wages, received the 1996 Oregon Book Award as well as the William Stafford Memorial Poetry Award from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association. His next two books — Studying Russian on Company Time (1999) and China Basin (2002) — were also finalists for the Oregon Book Award. Traveling Incognito, a letterpress chapbook from Wood Works in Seattle, appeared in 2004. Rembrandt, Chainsaw, another letterpress chapbook, was published in the fall of 2011.
His most recent book of poems, Old Dogs, New Tricks was published by Oblio Press in the spring of 2016. Forthcoming in November 2018, a book of collected poems Cathedrals & Parking Lots from Empty Bowl Press.
He lives on forty-some acres in the country outside of Dallas, Oregon, in the mid-Willamette Valley.
"Mr. Starck, not well-known outside the Northwest, is an essential plainspoken poet of work." —Dana Jennings, New York Times Arts Beat
"Starck is an expert workman, building his original lines nail by nail, as it were." —Elizabeth Gunderson, Booklist
books and CD's
Odd jobs that prepared you for nothing. Travels that were mostly getting lost. Lessons learned the hard way, that could have proved lethal. Melodies of the hard cash of a life hitting the counter, being spent. Dropped on you deadpan, but with a knowing twinkle. Clemens Starck's disguises are comic, myriad, and nearly transparent, viewed through the eyes of an innocent in quest of a meaningful life. Tag along and learn something.
"Durable Goods contains six thoughtful and insightful essays by Erik Muller in which he explores the work of six Oregon poets: Richard Dankleff, Barbara Drake, Kenneth O. Hanson, Paulann Petersen, Clemens Starck, and Lex Runciman. A photo of the poet, a folio of the poet’s poems, and a bibliography of the poet’s work accompany each essay. Read individually, the essays provide an in-depth look into the work of their respective authors. Read together, the essays add to the existing knowledge of Oregon poetry, providing a richer understanding of the writing in the Pacific Northwest region. The book is beautifully designed by the award-winning Jonathan Greene." [from Mountains & Rivers Press]
“No other writer has done more to further the discourse of Oregon poetry than Erik Muller. In Durable Goods, Muller extends his hallmark generosity deep into the work of six of our region’s unique voices. This collection reads as such a book should—like an old friend come back from a lifetime of travel, sitting across the table from you, connecting the stars into their myriad constellations. The adventure here, of course, is to turn a mirror onto the region, to go deep and local, to see how such connections—and disparities—create their meanings and mythologies. In some ways poets are borderless creatures, and in many ways they are harnessed to their times and geographies. Durable Goods exists in the hinterland between the global and regional, and such a big-hearted and sincere assessment of our literature deserves to be celebrated long into the night.” —Michael McGriff
“If you’ve never felt the delicious shock of discovering in the work of an unsung poet a small masterpiece, this book is for you. In Durable Goods Erik Muller looks deeply into the writing of six marvelous Oregon poets, placing their work in a regional context. He calls his essays “appreciations.” Durable Goods will be savored not only by readers of poetry but by all who love the Northwest.” —John Witte
"Poetry presents the thing in order to convey the feeling. It should be precise about the thing and reticent about the feeling, for as soon as the mind responds and connects with the thing the feeeling shows in the words: this is how poetry enters deeply into us. If the poet presents directly feelings which overwhelm him, and keeps nothing back to linger as an aftertaste, he stirs us superficially; he cannot start the hands and feet involuntarily waving and tapping in time, far less strengthen morality and refine culture, set heaven and earth in motion and call up the spirits!"— Wei Tai [eleventh century]
Clemens Starck's first book of poems, Journeyman’s Wages, received the 1996 Oregon Book Award as well as the William Stafford Memorial Poetry Award from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association.
"The poetry of Clem Starck is an American Works and Days.... This is the kind of poetry Whitman called for: an expression of the individual— original, moving, refreshingly unacademic." —Louis Simpson
"Some truly extraordinary poems here. Easily, gracefully, right up there with the best work being done today."— Jim Harrison
"This is a marvelous book....Starck has a faultless ear and an admirable concision. He also has a quietly devastating wit and a sharp eye for the foibles of our society."— Carolyn Kizer
Journeyman's Wages is written with the precision of a skilled craftsman. Whether Starck writes about pouring concrete, butchering rabbits, studying Chinese, or confronting questions from his young son, his poetry speaks in precise, clear language rooted in mind and body.
In this unusual book, Oregon poet and carpenter Clemens Starck recounts in verse and in prose his involvement with Russia and the Russian language. "What began as a joke," writes Starck in the prologue, "soon became an obsession." Poems written during and around his two trips to Russia in the 1990's alternate with brief commentaries providing the background and context from which the poems arose.
eileen duncan, salmon bay review
"The poems of Clemens Starck are refreshing and wonderful to read. There is no excess of language and no academic posturing; these poems are crafted with a subtlety of form and a precision that are the hallmarks of fine architecture."— Eileen Duncan, Salmon Bay Review
Morton Marcus, San Jose Metro
"His poems are meditations—done with a painter's light touch—about maintaining spiritual and mental balance in all aspects of living, and they have a distinctly Asian cast of thought and utterance reminiscent of the Chinese sage poets and Japanese Zen masters." —Morton Marcus, San Jose Metro
"I have been crazy about Clem Starck's poetry ever since I read it a few years ago while picking him as the winner of the Oregon Book Award. I'm not alone in particularly cherishing poems by people who work with their hands. Carpenters, printers, and factory workers are a fresh and vital antidote to the myriad of academic poets. Cheers for Clem!"— Carolyn Kizer
"Medieval cathedrals are unsigned wonders, built deliberately and reverently—built to last. But so, Starck might argue, are freeways. With the mindset & logic of the building trades coupled with a curiosity touching far-flung languages and cultures, Clemens Starck spots the odd signature set in concrete underfoot, or the anonymous soaring camber of an overpass. The whimsical, sorry and radiant results of an effortful life converge in this ramble where his timely, focused practice offers unexpected gifts—and laughs. Starck's explanation of a scaffold, as "a makeshift platform / from which to contemplate / impermanence" would do Wittgenstein proud. In his hands we savor this ongoing world as a mostly orderly but sometimes haphazard creation, fashioned of whatever came to hand & to mind."— Paul Hunter
getting it straight, audio CD
Recorded live in Cannon Beach, OR, on December 9 - 12, 2012 and April 15 - 17, 2013.
with music by Jon Broderick and Jay Speakman,
The poems on this disc are from the following books by Clem Starck: Journeyman's Wages (Story Line Press, 1995), China Basin (Story Line Press, 2002), Traveling Incognito (Wood Works, 2004), Rembrandt, Chainsaw, (Wood Works, 2011).
looking for parts, audio CD
Recorded live in Cannon Beach , OR, on October 17 & 18, and December 19 & 20, 2009.
Jon Broderick: guitar, banjo, slide guitar, ukulele, manual typewriter, wine glass, dinner triangle.
Jay Speakman: harmonicas, jew's-harp, piano, open-tuned guitar, hand-drums, sticks, rattle, cold-rolled steel pipe.
The poems on this disc are from the following books by Clem Starck: Journeyman's Wages (Story Line Press, 1995), China Basin (Story Line Press, 2002), Traveling Incognito (Wood Works, 2004).
CLEMENS STARCK was born in Rochester, New York, in 1937. After dropping out of Princeton, he continued his education on the road, riding freight trains and working at a variety of jobs around the country. He has been a ranch hand in eastern Oregon, a newspaper reporter on Wall Street, a door-to-door salesman, and a merchant seaman, among other things.
For over twenty years he worked construction up and down the West Coast, as a union carpenter and carpenter foreman on projects of all kinds, from bridge work in San Francisco and Oregon to custom homes in British Columbia.
As a poet he has received a scholarship from the Breadloaf Writers Conference as well as a grant and year-long residence at the Helene V. Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico. In 1998 he was the Witter Bynner Fellow and poet-in-residence at Willamette University, where he has taught on several other occasions. In February 2004 he was visiting poet at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
His poems have appeared in numerous magazines over the years, and in anthologies ranging from Walter Lowenfels’ Where Is Vietnam? (Doubleday Anchor Books, 1966) to a compilation of work writing, A Richer Harvest: the Literature of Work in the Pacific Northwest (OSU Press, 1999). A number of his poems have been read by Garrison Keillor on National Public Radio and included in Keillor’s anthology, Good Poems for Hard Times (Viking / Penguin, 2005).
He has given readings to diverse audiences throughout the West. A collection of his work, Journeyman’s Wages, was published by Story Line Press in 1995. The book received the William Stafford Memorial Poetry Award from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, and was also the recipient of the 1996 Oregon Book Award for Poetry.
Studying Russian on Company Time, an account in verse and prose of his involvement with Russia and the Russian language, appeared in 1999 from Silverfish Review Press and was a finalist for the 1999 Oregon Book Award. (The book was re-issued in a second edition in 2016.) Another full-length collection of poems, China Basin, was published in 2002 by Story Line Press, and was also an Oregon Book Award finalist. Two letterpress chapbooks of his poems have been published by Wood Works in Seattle: Traveling Incognito (2004) and Rembrandt, Chainsaw (2011).
In addition, Starck has recently produced two audio CDs of himself reading his poems against a musical background: Looking for Parts (2008) and Getting It Straight (2013). A new book of poems—Old Dogs, New Tricks—was published in 2016.
Retired from his job as a carpenter doing maintenance and repair work at Oregon State University in Corvallis, he has three grown children and lives on forty-some acres in the foothills of the Coast Range, outside Dallas, Oregon.