Joseph Cardarelli, writing teacher at Maryland Institute, poet, painter

August 27, 1994|By Michael James | Michael James,Sun Staff Writer

Joseph Cardarelli, a writing teacher at Maryland Institute, College of Art who wrote seven books of poetry and brought some of the nation's most renowned poets into his classroom, died of a heart attack yesterday at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. He was 50.

Mr. Cardarelli, who lived in the Roland Park area, used the examples of the Beat Generation and Black Mountain poets to shape his own writings -- and even his life.

He had taught at the institute since 1967 and during that time his classes were host to many respected poets, including Alan Ginsberg, Joel Oppenheimer, Ed Sanders and Robert Duncan, many of whom stayed at Mr. Cardarelli's home during their trips to Baltimore. "Baltimore became a part of the national poetry circuit because of him," said a friend, Joe Giordano of Baltimore.

nce each year, Mr. Cardarelli would travel to the hills of Appleton, Maine, and write poem after poem in his cabin retreat, which had no electricity or running water. "He would write on rolls and rolls of paper that would be spilling over," said Mr. Giordano, a painter who had known Mr. Cardarelli for more than 30 years.

"His best poems tended to be laments or celebrations of simple things. . . . Sometimes they would have to do with a game of marbles, or insects, or the weather," Mr. Giordano said. "There was a real sense of craft to his work."

In one recent unpublished poem, titled "Blues for Baltimore," Mr. Cardarelli wrote:

"Blues for Baltimore, being endless

I always loved this nameless rise

Always loved this lawless high

Always loved by me these sleeping hills

Rolling up from this flat, swampy port

Ultimate harbor of my dry desire."

Mr. Cardarelli earned his master's degree in creative writing from the Johns Hopkins University and immediately went to work at Maryland Institute. He taught a variety of writing courses, ranging from surveys of world literature to poetry seminars.

Each year he was the director of the institute's annual poetry series, which students and faculty came to know as "the spectrum of poetic fire," said Douglas L. Frost, the college's vice president for development. The series included readings from famous poets of a particular genre, such as Native American or Asian poetry.

"He played a very special role at the Maryland Institute," Mr. Frost said. "He did something very few people can do -- he got students to really love poetry."

Among Mr. Cardarelli's books of poetry were "Milano Manifesto" in 1975, "From the Maine Book" in 1984 and "Phantom House" in 1992.

Mr. Cardarelli was also an accomplished painter. His work -- he often painted on objects such as canoes or pieces of wood, rather than canvas -- is to be on display at the Resident Artist show at the Meyerhoff Gallery on Thursday.

"I always thought of him as much as a painter as a poet," Mr. Giordano said. "He would paint on screens, rocks, mushrooms, pieces of wood that had an interesting shape, or pieces of rusty metal. He would see something in the shape or the grain of the piece that brought out an image, like a landscape, and he'd paint it."

Mr. Cardarelli often taped the readings by the famous poets, as well as his interviews with them. Some of those tapes were shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

He is survived by his wife of 15 years, Marta, and two children, Juliana and Joseph III, all of Baltimore; his mother, Julia Hanschew Cardarelli of Washington; and a brother, James Cardarelli of Scappoose, Ore.

A memorial service will be held Monday at Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church at Mount Royal and Lafayette avenues. The time of the service will be announced tomorrow. Memorial donations may be made to the Joseph Cardarelli Memorial Fund, c/o Maryland Institute, College of Art, 1300 W. Mount Royal Ave., Baltimore 21217.

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