Alumni Spotlight: Carl Little '80

September 09, 2014

The Alumni Spotlight is a place to hear from the School of the Arts alumni community about their journeys as artists and creators.

A native New Yorker, Carl Little '80 has lived on Mount Desert Island since 1989. He holds degrees from Dartmouth, Middlebury and Columbia. Prior to joining the staff at the Maine Community Foundation in 2001 as director of communications and marketing, he directed the public affairs office at College of the Atlantic and oversaw the Ethel Blum Gallery. Before that he was associate editor at Art in America magazine. Little has published two collections of poetry: 10,000 Dreams Explained and Ocean Drinker: New & Selected Poems. His poems have appeared in a number of journals ranging from the Paris Review to Off the Coast, as well as in three anthologies edited by Wesley McNair, Maine’s Poet Laureate. Among Little’s most recent art books are Nature & Culture: The Art of Joel Babb and Irene Hardwicke Olivieri: Closer to Wildness. His book Eric Hopkins: Above and Beyond won the first John N. Cole Award from Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance in 2012. He edited his brother David Little’s first book, Art of Katahdin, and helped produce the film Jon Imber’s Left Hand, which premiered at the Maine Jewish Film Festival in March, 2014.

Was there a specific faculty member or peer who especially inspired you while at the School of the Arts? If so, who and how?   

I enrolled in the MFA program to learn more about the art of writing poetry. I cherish the classes with Stanley Kunitz, Charles Simic, and especially Charles Wright. To that, add Derek Walcott, F.T. Prince, Jane Cooper and so many other terrific writers and teachers, and you come up with a dream program. What I wasn't expecting were those classes that looked at other aspects of writing, including criticism and translation. In a course with Dan Halpern we were asked to write a review each week, covering a diverse range of literature, from the Book of Psalms and a Balzac novel to books of contemporary poetry. I learned how to write about literature, a skill that has stood me good stead ever since. Equally valuable was William Weaver's course in translation. In addition to sharing with us the subtleties of rendering another language into English, Weaver hosted a remarkable group of visiting translators. Through him I met Francis Steegmuller and Gregory Rabassa. He also emphasized the responsibility of the translator, which for me meant also the broader responsibility of being a writer.

How did attending the School of the Arts impact your work and career as an artist?

In addition to providing me with an important credential, the School of the Arts led to, among other things, publishing poetry in a range of small and large journals (from the Hudson Review to the Black Fly Review). Honing my writing skills has helped me in all my various endeavors, from publishing 25 art books to working as a communications and marketing director (first at College of the Atlantic and, since 2001, at the Maine Community Foundation.

If you could revisit any piece you created during your time at the School of the Arts, which would it be? Why?

I took a lot of classes outside the MFA program, filling in gaps in my knowledge of literature. I'd love to go back and revisit a piece I wrote about Walt Whitman's The Compost for Quentin Anderson's class.

What was your favorite or most memorable class while at the School of the Arts?

Derek Walcott's class on the English pentameter tradition. He made all the students memorize and recite poems in front of the class—terrifying, but a wonderful way to approach literature.

Read more from the Alumni Spotlight series