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Biography of Joe DiCarlo
Compiled by Frank Sisco
and Norine DiCarlo Strittmatter (Joe's sister)
Copyright 2000 Frank Sisco
A brief biography of Joe DiCarlo, gifted writer and artist.
Joe DiCarlo enjoys the gift of extreme creativity and suffers it as well. Joe has been driven for decades to write and create. In school Joe excelled. He was an English honors student at Fordham University, from which he graduated in 1962. His studies included a junior year abroad at the Sorbonne in Paris. Joe’s poem “The Lovers of Troy” was written during his freshman year at Fordham.
After graduation, though his father had hoped Joe would follow him in the profession of law, Joe's passion for writing drove him to choose a variety of jobs that would leave him enough time to write and immerse himself in everyday life. His gift of writing is embedded with his gift of sight, of vision, and understanding. Joe continued to take in the world early on through the prism of police-reporting for a newspaper in Yonkers for a year, then living on the lower east side of Manhattan for a year, and then living and working at a Catholic communal farm at Tivoli, NY.
Journalist George James in The Morning Call, 5/9/68 edition (Passaic, Morris County News) described Joe’s life in Manhattan: “Even in his relaxed moments, he was concentrating on writing: he walked around the neighborhoods of New York, watched the people and listened to their ordinary sorrow and joy and their dreams in the many dialects that make a city, and he wrote it down, the snatches of conversation, their actions and his own thoughts, all in a small notebook he was never without.” It was during this time, always moved by compassion for the human condition, that Joe wrote "Incantation for Henry Miller." After those experiences, writing all the while, Joe returned home to Pelham, NY where he lived with his parents and two sisters. In January 1967, he had a nervous breakdown. He spent the next 6 months in Jacobi Hospital where he began to paint and play Mister Tambourine Man and other Bob Dylan songs on his guitar and pursued a marked new interest in religion and God. Subsequently he became a first and second grade teacher at St. Catherine of Genoa School in Spanish Harlem where he remained for ten years. During that time he continued to paint and sell his paintings, and he began to write and play his own songs on his guitar. After studying for his master’s degree in theology at St. John’s University, he obtained his MA in 1983. He last taught elementary school in 1986 at St. Bonaventure’s Indian Mission School in New Mexico.
For the next 10 years, Joe wrote, painted and performed, dedicating his life to the arts. For a major portion of this time, he was employed by a local Catholic lay organization for which he wrote numerous essays and by which he was commissioned to write a sixth grade catechism, currently published by St. Ignatius Press in California. After leaving this job, he wrote, recited his works, played songs and painted, on his own and in small groups including at open-mike nights at bookstores throughout southern New York, including Encore Book Store in Scarsdale. He always stirred the audience.
Joe has been a lifelong member of the International Society of Poets, and has become a distinguished member. He received the 1998 Editor's Choice award for outstanding achievement in poetry, presented by the National Library of Poets.
Joe DiCarlo suffered a debilitating stroke on April 18, 1996 which left him unable to use his right hand for writing and painting, and unable to speak. However, over the last few years he has been able to refine the use of his left hand to enable him to again produce works of art and to communicate by writing. Joe’s intellectual abilities have been unaffected by the stroke but at this time he remains unable to speak other than a few words, but this does not stop him from communicating by gestures, sketches and writing. Despite the extent of his disability, with the support of family, friends and deep faith in God, Joe has been able to express his unique creativity in the visual art of painting for the time being.