Capful of feathers: Garrett named Poet Laureate


By Elizabeth Kiem

The Commonwealth's newest Poet Laureate is a little bit ambivalent about the genre.

"The word poet has always been, since Homeric times, just a word for a writer," says George Garrett, UVA professor emeritus of creative writing. "You could think of Faulkner as a poet," he muses, "or even poets of film, like Fellini or Kurosawa."

In fact, Garrett has turned his pen to multiple literary endeavors including essays, stories, and screenplays. His best-known work is not poetry at all, but a series of novels set in the Elizabethan era. But he's particularly gratified by his July appointment by Governor Mark Warner as a "gesture honoring poetry and not a particular poet."

As for additional notoriety to augment his fame, Garrett gamely accepts the price– sitting in The Hook Hot Seat.

"You get only 15 minutes," he laughs, "and you might wind up sleeping through it anyway."

Garrett's latest collection of poems, Days of our Lives Lie in Fragments, was released in 1999. Here are some of the ever-humorous fragments of a poet laureate's life.

Age: 73

What brought you here? Both times (in 1962 and again in 1984) it was a job at UVA.

What's worst about living here? The ongoing traffic jam

Favorite hangout? Home

Most overrated virtue? They're all overrated

What would people be surprised to know about you? I used to have a lot of red curly hair on the top of my head.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I'd be tall.

What accomplishment are you proudest of? Tackling a Heisman trophy winner in mid-field.

What do people find most annoying about you? My buoyant cheerfulness

Whom do you admire (not a family member)? Bill Dudley

Favorite book? The Canterbury Tales

 What subject causes you to rant? Politics

What thrills you about life in the 21st century? How much it's like the 20th century

What creeps you out about life in the 21st century? How much it's like the 20th century

What do you drive? A Suburban Outback or an ancient Chevrolet

What's in your car CD/cassette player right now? Paul Simon and some country music

What's your next journey? To Maine, at the end of August

What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in? Getting caught stealing oranges out of someone else's yard

What do you regret? Plenty

Favorite comfort food? Beefsteak

What's always in your refrigerator? Orange juice

Must-see TV? "The Sopranos"

Favorite cartoon? "Doonesbury"

Describe a perfect day: Not so long ago, I was sitting on a porch in Warm Springs where the only sound was of water running over rocks and I remember thinking, if you could just turn that down, this would be a perfect day.

Walter Mitty fantasy? Winning the Heisman trophy

Who'd play you in the movie? Redford would do fine– the young one.

Most embarrassing moment? Giving a totally incoherent lecture for an hour and a half because I forgot my glasses and couldn't read my notes

Best advice you ever got? My grandfather, on being told I wanted to be a writer, said, "That's okay. It's as good a way to be poor as any other."

Favorite bumper sticker? We made one up recently, but I forget what it said.