New Recruits Episode 26: Shale Wagman Reads Carmine Starnino

Welcome back to New Recruits! If it’s your first time here, check out Episode 1 for more information about how this series works.

Shale Wagman is a professional ballet dancer, a Canada’s Got Talent finalist, and my (most dedicated) English student. Over the past few months, I taught him how not to write an intro paragraph, how to instal Adblock for Chrome, and how to use the words “bildungsroman” and “paternalistic.” He taught me about European opera houses and classical music and how little French I actually know.

I gave Shale three poems to choose from, all by different poets, and he chose this one. I thought the title was fitting because, in North America at least, ballet isn’t typically considered “A Manly Art.” Shale addresses questions about gender and dance in an interview with Dance Channel TV that can be found here (4:23). He confidently shrugs off the suggestion that being a male dancer can be isolating and asserts that the passion he feels for his art form never lets little things (like a low male to female ratio) get in his way.

Leviathan, Carmine Starnino’s most recent book (and the one in which “The Manly Arts” can be found), is a cross-generational examination of fatherhood and masculinity. I was interested in how Shale’s perspective may influence his reading of Carmine’s poem.

So here’s Shale reading “The Manly Arts”:


What was your first impression of the poem?

The author is upset and frustrated.

Which line of the poem do you like best?

“A lawn like this ,my friend,/ doesn’t come easy.”


It shows how nothing comes easy in life and how you have to work for everything.

What does this poem make you think of?

This poem makes me think of expectation in the world and how it can make you unhappy.

Have you encountered a poem like this before? Is this poem different from what you expected poetry to be like? If so, How?

This type of poetry is contemporary. The types of poetry that I’ve read in the past have sounded much older and they weren’t nearly as comprehensive.

Does this poem remind you of any other piece of art or media?

This poem reminds me of dance because it can interpreted in many different ways. It makes you think because it is not exactly “straightforward.”

Do you have any questions for the poet?

What is your deeper meaning of “Mowing lawns” ?

Shale Wagman is a ballet dancer. He is 17 years old and very into all forms of art and expression.



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