Neil Carpathios is an award-winning poet and author of five full-length poetry collections, most recently “The Door on Every Tear.” He also has published a collection of flash fictions, edited an anthology of literature and written as a newspaper columnist. He has taught at various colleges and universities, most recently for the past 12 years at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio, where he was a professor of English and director of Creative Writing. Currently, he is serving as Writer in Residence at Malone University in Canton.
What book got you interested in your career?
“Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman (46 pages, 1855). The beauty of Whitman’s poetic language and his compassionate world view, which celebrates life in all its facets—even the darker aspects—inspired and showed me what poetry is capable of achieving in magical and mystical ways.
What is the book that shocked you the most?
“The Painted Bird” by Jerzy Kosinski (234 pages, 1965). This horrifying novel based on Kosinski’s real-life experiences tells the story of an orphaned young boy, alone, wandering from village to village in WWII Europe and the violent and perverse encounters that would forever shape his tortured identity.
What is the last book you read?
“One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder” by Brian Doyle (272 pages, 2019). After reading this gathering of Doyle’s finest essays, poems and musings from throughout his career as a writer of faith, it is impossible to not be forever changed, to not feel your own heart expanded and amplified.
What is the last book that made you laugh out loud?
“The Stench of Honolulu” by Jack Handey (240 pages, 2013). Handey, a humorist who has written for The New Yorker as well as “Saturday Night Live,” tells the tale of an absurdly outlandish journey to Hawaii full of twists and turns and unforgettable characters whose names escape me right now, where heads are shrunken and feet are stunken, where you smell a flower and it smells you back.
What is the last book that made you cry?
“Once More We Saw Stars: A Memoir” by Jayson Greene (256 pages, 2019). This memoir explores maybe the worst thing that can happen to a human being—to be a parent that tragically and suddenly loses a child—as Greene heartwrenchingly confronts grief after his young daughter is shockingly killed by a falling brick next to a building in New York City.
What is a book you wish you had written?
“Moby Dick” by Merman Melville (585 pages, 1851). To write the greatest American novel (in my humble opinion) of nearly 600 pages about a giant, mysterious whale and a crazed ship captain that oozes adventure, violence, humor and philosophical depth in acrobatic and poetic prose that only a mad genius could write—now, that would be sweet!
What book have you read that you think the movie is better?
Another fish tale, about another white fish (not a mammal) and another crazed captain: “Jaws” by Peter Benchley (278 pages, 1974) (movie directed by Steven Spielberg).
What is next up on your reading list?
“The Depositions: New & Selected Essays on Being and Ceasing to Be” by Thomas Lynch (352 pages, 2019). Lynch writes like nobody else about life and death from his authentic perspective as an undertaker whose career was spent in, what he refers to as, “the dismal trade.”