Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Putting the X Back in Xmas

Ok, I'm in a bit of a rush. I've got to meet Scrooge & the Grinch for lunch, but I want to knock out this entry before I go. Thing is, I'd planned to introduce different poems of the holidays--Hanukkah, Xmas, Kwanzaa, Festivus--but while searching for a link to Charles Harper Webb's "The Death of Santa Claus," one of my favorites, I discovered a plethora--plethora, what a fun word--of sites when I Googled the title.

To be honest, I sure as hell don't feel like sorting through the seasonably schmaltzy tripe to find other smartly crafted work. Rather, given my limited time, I'll provide a selection of links gleaned from my search, beginning with, by way of a segue from the Webb poem, this apt photo.

Want an obituary to accompany it? Sorry, wrong link. Try this. Wait, that's not it either. Dammit, here!

Too real? Perhaps you'd prefer an editorial which explores the death of the Santa myth. Or maybe a story or two--eh, sort of.

Actually, since this a poetry blog, you no doubt hope Santa's substantial sack overflows with versified goodness to stuff your always alliterative stocking with. But as the old chestnut, roasted or otherwise, warns: be careful what you wish for. Like the time you'd asked for an HO slot car set--it's what you really, really wanted--but you got a crappy model train set instead, not even a Lionel, but some cheapo-cheapo N gauge knockoff manufactured by Acme. Ok, that's not the best example, but I'm still pissed.

Anyway, here you go, kaff, poetry lovers. Happy "elfin" holidays.

Monday, December 8, 2008

FYI

Readers who have tried to access my website lately have come away disappointed. The site's down as am I. My site's down while being retooled; me, I'm frustrated that Obama hasn't named Dennis Kucinich Secretary of Peace.

Also, I could use a little retooling myself, if you know what I mean. Sigh.

Not knowing when the site will be back up, I've moved much of it to this blog. For those of you wanting to sample poems, you can follow the links--well, some of them--to magazines which, if you're willing to search, have published my work online. Even if you're not looking for my work, the linked sites are well worth your perusal.

The best way to sample my poems, however, is to buy my books. As Wilford Brimley would say, it's the right thing to do. Once you read me, you'll want to possess me & my poems. As readers & lovers alike, if prompted, will tell you--once you go Matt, there's no going back.

Here's hoping the site is back up soon. I'm sorry for the inconvenience. In the meantime, my blog will have to pull double duty.

If you have ideas for my site, seeing as it is under construction, please feel free to make suggestions. Who knows? If I use your idea maybe I'll send you a t-shirt or something. I think I have a couple I haven't worn too often.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Civil Defense of Poetry

Last month, while crawling under my desk–long story, don’t ask–I came across an unopened letter in the sprawling mess littering my study floor. Its time beneath my feet had rendered its return address illegible.

Looking inside the envelope, I found a long treatise in verse, a mock crown of sonnets scribbled in purple ink, devoted to the frustrations of the lofty, lowly life of a poet, along with a terse, enigmatic handwritten note that read, “Like to know what you think–I’ve gone for sheep.”

Scrawled atop the first page was its title, “A Civil Defense of Poetry,”& under this, presumably, the poet’s name, Edwin R. Beaverman.

I’d attended a poetry workshop years ago with a fellow student named Eddie Beaver--I think. Admittedly, I’m horrible with names, so maybe it’s the same guy, maybe not. Even so, why had he written me? We shared nothing except an affinity for ampersands.

I don’t know what to make of it, but since I can’t return it to Mr. Beaverman, I’m sharing it below.

1

My friend, before you commit to the cause,
weigh the advice Rilke gives the young poet:
Ask yourself, alone in your bed at night,
if there’s anything else you’d rather
be doing. Wink, nudge. But say cable’s not
available in your area & you
don’t know what opportunities await
you at DeVry. Well, let me point
out many find careers in computer
programming extremely gratifying.
Poetry requires a life’s devotion,
whereas DeVry offers a two year plan
with financial aid if you qualify.
You should at least read the literature.

2

You should at least read the literature
of previous generations if for no
other reason than not referring to
Alexander Pope as His Eminence.


Sadly, much of this second sonnet is lost, for which I take some responsibility. During my lengthy deliberation on what to do with this poem, I had set it atop my desk, where it doubled as a coaster. As a result, a series of watery purple rings have replaced most of the octave & the sestet.

However, from what I can discern from the smudges, the sonnet derides others for not knowing the great poets, whom Beaverman implies are difficult primarily because they are dull. This segues into his lampooning poetic diction in the third sonnet. He says somewhere within the concentric purple rings:

Oft poets hide with odd syntax notions
which, like stroke books under mattresses tucked,
when uncovered embarrassing prove & dumb.


The sonnet devolves into angry, explicit claims about the uncertain sex lives of certain poets, which for legal concerns, I think it best I not repeat, no matter how intriguing, then concludes with lines that serve as a strange springboard into sonnet 4 & the subject of the writing craft:

Such fetishes, however, represent but
one reason poets turn suicidal.

4

One reason poets turn suicidal
is to free themselves of the burden of
revision.


Recognizing Mr. Beaverman’s tips for composing poetry has proven difficult, for he has repeatedly crossed through lines & drawn arrows pointing to shorthand scraps of marginalia that resemble aimless doodles more than words. At one point, he'd written, See back, but as fate would have it, I had used the back to jot down a few items I needed to pick up before going out of town for the weekend. I accept total ownership of the blame, but in fairness, if I hadn't made a list, I probably would have forgotten something. As is, my trip went fine.

In any event, the next sonnet, the fifth, discusses the different ways poets find inspiration for writing. I truly regret that I, for reasons that if roles were reversed would be obvious, can’t share these with you other than a paltry few stray lines. In this sonnet, the speaker endeavors to answer the self-imposed question: How do poets use sex to invoke the muse?

Here Beaverman returns to his unsubstantiated, often graphic, usually titillating depictions of ritualistic activities involving, for instance, farm animals, electrical appliances & the exhumed remains of Edna St. Vincent Millay. The sonnet ends with the lines:

. . . Then there’s booze. Sometimes nothing
more than whiskey made Dylan Thomas write.

6

More than whiskey made Dylan Thomas write . . .


I don't know if Thomas wrote for whiskey, because of whiskey or both; frankly, I don't think Mr. Beaverman does either. Herein lies one of the problems with his poem: he makes unwarranted allegations, often scurrilous, against others, but provides no evidence of the validity of the assertions, save that his saying so makes it true.

Quickly changing subjects, Beaverman somehow maneuvers the sixth sonnet into a retelling of what appears to be a personal experience, though seemingly not particularly appropriate given his purpose. He recalls a professor at the University of --- made copies of around 50 poems he planned to use in the class. Pages secured, but copyrights not, with large binder clips, Prof. G- required students to purchase the “book” from him for thirty bucks or something, which, back then, back in the 80s, I assume, given Beaverman's myriad references to Lycra skirts & leg-warmers, well exceeded the cost of copies.

Again, I can’t reprint this sonnet because of legal concerns. Too many individuals are implicated, including the professor, several snobby nonfictional students, one of whom, by way of full-disclosure, I personally know, & the apparently indifferent head of the Library of Congress.

Fortunately, the seventh & final sonnet, the mock jewel of the mock crown, unsullied by legalities or the smudges of condensation, I can, will & do reprint in full below:

7

Consider the thinly disguised travelogue,
ornately versified to illustrate
that classy Charlie Poet’s got good taste.
Sputtering along in his clunker up

the tree-lined Champs Elysees, making
observations one step removed from seasoned
lecture notes as he continues to recount
the minutia of his trip, all without

benefit of the corresponding slides,
he slips in a metaphor, comparing
the Arc de Triomphe to a baguette--
“after a nip,” he quips. Subsequently, he’s
praised for his biting wit. Think about that,
my friend, before you commit to the cause.


Thus ends Mr. Beaverman’s sonnet sequence. What do I make of it? Well, Eddie, if you’re out there, good luck with your sheep.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Woot!

After Barack Obama's historic victory yesterday, I am reminded of a Life in Hell strip from 1992, in which Binky asks Akbar & Jeff if they're going to "miss those Republican sleazeballs just a little bit."

Over the next 14 panels, Akbar & Jeff skip & dance acrobatically--& poetically, if I may, to return this blog to its purpose--then reply in unison, "Not really."

Sunday, November 2, 2008

As If You Didn't Already Know . . .

The Great Encyclopedia of Universal Knowledge endorses Barack Obama for president.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Frost Warning

The contradiction in Frost's "The Road Not Taken" disturbs me--maybe too much. The speaker spends a good amount of time--my time, as reader--establishing that both paths "equally lay" & were "about the same." I'm familiar with the poet's subtle irony, autobiographical references, literary allusions yadda yadda yadda--but these hardly justify the colossal gaffe.

Those who defend the poem on the aforementioned grounds no doubt belong to the same group who find the poem comical. Comical? I've never heard one person as much as snicker unless I read it in my dumb guy voice. Now that's funny!

Know another thing that bothers me? Frost once claimed that he intended his poetry to be interpreted only literally. Not only literally, but also . . . but only literally!

If true, then what about the last stanza of the poem? Is the speaker so boring that he'll tell "ages hence" the tale of his choosing one path over the other while taking his constitutional? Gee, um--great story, Gramps.

It reminds me of years ago when my dad, after a few too many, interrupted my studying for midterms so he could tell me in excruciating detail about his experience of buying a hat. The story--or the hat, for that matter--didn't have a point, but that didn't stop him from retelling it. Repeatedly.

The poem's ending really irks me. How does the choice of one leafy path over another make "all the difference"? Obviously, the poem means to transcend a walk in the woods; without delving into nuances, simply put, the poem is about life choices.

I've written the following as a 5th & final stanza that corrects the contradiction & shores up Frost's claim of being exclusively literal:

For down one path, with silken hair,
There walked the one whom I would wed.
But down the other, a grizzly, bar-
Ing fangs & claws, sprang out of nowhere
And killed twelve nuns, so the news said.

This new stanza resolves the contradiction: 12 people traveled the first path while one person took the road "less traveled by." I needn't explain how it supports the assertion that the choice of roads "made all the difference." That seems painfully clear. Moreover, the new stanza doesn't detract from the thought that one needs to follow his/her own path in life. If anything, it reinforces the idea by showing decisions have consequences.

(Note to educators: Please feel free to use this helpful additional stanza in class.)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Verse & Adversity

As a manly man & writer of free verse, I'm unconcerned with how my poems scan on the whole. However, as standard practice, I'll don my work clothes now & again, button up the oil-stained shirt with my name in script above the pocket & go line to line, checking meter in order to understand the rhythm & to create perhaps more interesting patterns.

I should probably do this more often, but it's understandable why I don't. Years ago, performing routine scansion on a parody of Yeats ("Leda & the Sun," which appeared in the now defunct Great Midwestern Journal) I suffered an extremely painful stress fracture. My foot, broken in two places, but mostly in iambic pentameter, required a clunky boot. Something new from Kenneth Cole? I also needed a cane, which--to put a positive spin on otherwise regrettable circumstances--helped me solve the riddle of the Sphinx. By the way, great punchline, Sophocles!

Once while composing a crown of sonnets, I tore ligaments in my pinkie. Initially, I thought it a minor injury & treated it as such with ice & ibuprofen. However, when the area around the lower knuckle remained sore & swollen long after the publication of "Part of the Problem" (New Zoo Poetry Review), I consulted a prosody specialist, who suggested mythosurgery, with the caveat that the fateful finger would never completely heal.

To this day, though not quite the proverbial sore thumb, my pinkie juts slightly outward & sidewise, as if I were forever having tea & crumpets with the Queen. It's like a string around my finger to remind me of the toil & trouble, times two, that went into the making of this crown.

To laundry-list a few other ailments, I scratched my cornea while completing "Blind Spot" (Georgetown Review), suffered whiplash during "Washington Crossing the Delaware" (Swink), dislocated a finger via a hard enjambment in "Here's How" (ABZ Review), developed hypertension, which had something to do with "Scenes from a Sonata" (Hunger Mountain), aggravated allergies while researching "Night at the Improv, C. 1600" (Segue) & broke my little toe when I fell down the stairs proofing "Ars Poetica" (DMQ Review).

Too often, the general public envisions poets as innately frail, sickly creatures who bemoan their existence for lack of love or who wax poetic over the imcomprehensible beauty of a petunia. But that's backward. It's not that poets are weak by nature, but rather, that poetry is a deceptively dangerous field, beset with infinite risks. Prolonged practice of this sullen craft eventually erodes the poets' health until they can barely lift their quivering quills, so to speak--which is to say nothing of the emotional toll, though, in retrospect, maybe I should have.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Laying Claim to the Name

Ever Google yourself?

If you were me, you'd find many people share your name, most notably the once promising MLB pitcher whose career tanked & a former Mickey Mouse Club member who's a musician. Allegedly. In either case, I'm not likely to be confused with those guys.

From time to time, I receive phone calls for locals also named Matt Morris, but despite the inconvenience & annoyance, it's simply mistaken identity that, for the most part, is easily rectified. After all, we're not in the same line of work or know the same people.

However, thanks to Google & narcissism, I've learned others named Matt Morris are credited with writing poetry.

This cannot stand.

As a disclaimer, let me say I'm not this guy. Nor this. Certainly not this either.

Listen, Matts, you need to be with me on this one. For the common good, ok? I'm sure lots of people have the initials H.D., but they all don't sign their poems that way. Even if every atom belonging to him as good as belongs to me, I don't call myself Walt Whitman. It would cause confusion, not to mention make me appear totally wacko. Thus, in order to prevent utter chaos, we need to agree that only one of us can write as Matt Morris.

Here's the deal: Since my first book was published in 2003, my first poem way, way, way back in the f'ing '70s, I have first refusal on the name--& yes, thank you, I'm keeping it, my name.

You Mattys-come-lately can battle it out over who gets to use Matthew, I suppose. Or how about you lesser Matts using initials? Or why not take a tip from the e-world & add numbers to your name? Better yet, ever consider a nom de plume?

Point is, there's room for only one Matt Morris in poetry town & that position is filled. You! Hypocrite lecteurs! Quietly & quickly move away from the name. It's taken.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

NYQ 64

is now available & chock full of poetic goodness, including interviews with Marge Piercy & David Lehman & a parody of Richard Hugo in the sestina, "Degrees of Hell at Hattiesburg." Those in the know may recall this poem appears in Nearing Narcoma, winner of the 2003 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award. If you'd like, I can tell you a bit about the history of this poem, as well as share a few thoughts on my manipulation of the sestina form, which, for entertainment value, features a gratuitous car chase through San Francisco & a Paris Hilton cameo. However, if you'd rather read the new NYQ, it's now available.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Return from the Himalayas, Part 2

When everything sucks, become the sucking. This is easier for some than others.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

In Confessional Mode

In my previous post, I cited as the reason for my hiatus a contentious poets' strike when, in fact, no such strike took place. To be clear, poetry has undergone no recent labor stoppage & poets, for the most part, have continued to churn out work, however much they may be discouraged from doing so.

If you frequent my blog, then you've come to expect lies. My life's pretty dull, though not especially pretty, so I dress up the drudgery. It's called writing, ok? However, to fob you off with some hackneyed idea about a poets' strike . . . for that, I am ashamed. Where's imagination? What ho, originality? WTF's wrong with me?

At the time, lying seemed like a good idea as, to be honest, it usually does. If poets were to strike, how many people would know? Therefore, I felt confident I could cover my laziness with what I thought a clever lie. In retrospect, it wasn't clever, but the opposite of clever--revelc?

Truth is, I haven't felt "writerly" lately. Oh, I go through the motions. I sit at my desk. I sip my coffee. I blindly hit a few keys, but mostly I heave heavy sighs. I would confide in you possible causes for my literary lethargy if I could, blaming, among other things, the recent declassification of documents that I feared would expose me as a top secret spy. However, maybe the real reason comes from sheer physical exhaustion after my having spent the summer tromping across America spreading the gospel of beauty, i.e., poetry, which may seem to some an almost noble endeavor, if true.

Dear reader, if I still have one, forgive me for my prior deception. I lied. Not only did I lie, but I presented a lame & unoriginal excuse for my not posting for nearly two months.

In the future, I will make all efforts to lie with Imagination & Creativity personified--promise! Meanwhile, may you enjoy these poetically scattered breadcrumbs before the prosaic flock hovering overhead like a dark thought balloon swoops down.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

United Poets FTW

Yes! The poets' strike has, at long last, ended. Over the next few days, poets are expected to ratify a spanking new multi-year contract, capping poetry's longest & most contentious dispute in recent history. Details of the agreement are not available, but with the strike now over, proverbial experts are totaling the cost, though loss is inherently difficult to measure & estimates, given the nature of poetry, tend to skew hyperbolically.

I can now once again begin posting on this blog, which is a poetry blog, so the aforementioned strike explains the crickets you may have heard if you visited here of late.

What's new? I've begun revising my next book. If you've never arranged a book of poems, how can I explain the sheer sarcastic joy? If you're like me, you have my sympathy--a form of self-pity-- as you pore over your life's work, your own worst critic, slouching toward Bedlam.

Here are a couple of poems I'm considering including in my book. If you want to tell me what you think, I'm approximately 90% ears. I want your honest opinion, but don't be a hater. I'm vulnerable these days.

GOODBY

Shiny heads of finishing nails
holding up the sky
we call stars, even though
we know many to be planets. It’s just

the way we are down here. High
in the apple tree, the world
you come from flickers
like a lightning bug. I mean

no disrespect to you or your
home. When you’re ready to
go back, you need
only climb up & pluck

your fiery bug star from
the dark leaves. Here’s a jar
to keep it in which will trim
light years from your trip.

I’ve poked holes
in the lid big enough to fly
a spaceship through,
see?

(as appeared in Words of Wisdom)


NIGHT SCHOOL

Norman forgot his math
book because when he went
to kiss his wife goodby, he found
a blue Post-it Note that said
something he didn't like

or understand, blocked
the image as he walked out, angry,
unlucky, possibly unloved, then had
to sit, gazing up at the black-
board sky, smudged

& smeared, beside a super-
annuated lady munching ginger-
snaps. Each cracked, faded
floor square represented
that awkward moment turning

in his head in which bifocals fell
from his striped shirt pocket. Even
without them, Norman saw
himself as the product of cheap
irony, the going rate, crawling

through blurry bits of lives
& spaces, the heel of an inattentive
loafer crushing the back
of his hand. Precisely what
asked the professor, propping

open a window with a rusty
abacus—is the hypotenuse
of the triangle opposed to
a lost sense of self-worth,
uh, Norman?
Crazy wind

whooshed papers throughout
the classroom, as a voice no one
recognized, not even Norman, whose
thoughts meandered, answered
with sputtering uncertainty—

1). the path to truth; 2). nothing
outside its linguistic form; 3). not
actual, the ultimate value cannot be
known; 4). anxiety, guilt, desire;
or 5). 7 1/2, same as my hat
.

(as appeared in Coal City Review)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

New Zoo Poetry Review #11

is now available.

This issue includes, among many other fine poems I'm sure, my faux crown of sonnets, "Part of the Problem," which I gave an animated & by all accounts "high-larious" reading of (complete with a bell used as censor, for the poem, written in the voice of a teenager, employs a pack, a peck & a pile of profanity) last weekend at Empire Books.

If you'd like to obtain a copy of #11 before it becomes a rare & expensive collector's item, send $5 to Angela Vogel at NZPR. I have the address here somewhere, but why wait for me (I still need to file my taxes) when you can visit New Zoo Poetry Review for information?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Poetry Reading

If you come to Empire Books (located in Pullman Square) on Saturday, April 5th, between 5 & 7 pm, you can hear me read from Nearing Narcoma & Here's How. The reading itself should start around 6-ish. I'll be available beforehand if you want to chat. Of course, I'll glady sign copies of either or both books. I can't promise free hot dogs & balloons to everyone in attendance, but if you mention this post, I can probably offer you a mint. If you live outside Huntington, the following links may help with your travel plans:

Tri State Airport
Amtrak
Greyhound

Here's hoping I see you there!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Self-Portrait in a Prospect of Photos

Here I am as a moody teen, silhouetted against the picture window at my parents' house. No doubt The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, my favorite poet in high school, lies at my feet, page marked by a worn paperback edition of 100 Selected Poems by E. E. Cummings. As for my poetry in those days, I wrote much in the style of Richard Brautigan. If you'd think you'd like to read some of my early pieces, you're horribly mistaken. I remember one titled "Penetration." Guess what it was about! Guess!


The Hat, my nickname in college, sits at the campus coffee house, smoking Gauloises & propounding preposterous prosodic theories with aspiring others. I'd memorized "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," so it's altogether possible I'm taking a quick puff while reciting "Prufrock" as Boris Karloff, which I often did--or, if I found my voice, as Bob Newhart, which difficult to sustain, usually only lasted through maybe the start of the third stanza, by which time everyone had quit listening anyway.


Ah, yes! It is I, Pompadour Dali, the self-deprecating alias I sometimes used when, having left Clonus II, I played guitar & sang, neither particularly well, but I knew lots of songs, so I had that going for me. See those eyes--obviously I'd hit the bar chords a little hard of late! I can't explain the sweater. Who can explain sweaters? More to the point, what does this have to do with poetry? If you look over the cover of Nearing Narcoma, you may notice that the utility poles along the roadside resemble guitar necks. The connection to the past--a book plug!


The emerging poet, having composed "Aspects of Dagwood," a parody of Weldon Kees' "Aspects of Robinson," completes his master's at the University of Southern Mississippi's Center for Writers.

Coincidentally, Weldon Kees & I both have the same number of letters in our names (10); he has 6 in his first, 4 in his last; for me, as perhaps befits the parodist, it's vice versa--4 in my first, 6 in my last.

Moreover, if you spell Weldon Kees backward, it reads, "Seek Nodlew." I didn't think of this tidbit at the time I wrote "Dagwood," but would you find it interesting, perhaps slightly eerie, if I told you my middle name is Nodlew? For the sake of this post, let's assume that's true.

Friday, March 7, 2008

In Re: Verse

Given my last post concerning the poetics of fear, I would feel remiss if I didn't at least mention the fear of poetry, or metrophobia.

Why would someone fear poetry? Poets use language in ways that many people don't understand; as in most walks of life, people generally fear what they don't understand.

"Metrophobia," you may find interesting to know--I know I do--is the title of one of my poems that appeared in Segue (as well as in my book, Nearing Narcoma). If you're not familiar with Segue, acquaint yourself. It's a great online magazine.

If you don't know about Nearing Narcoma, stop hiding under the covers. Take the time right now to confront the book Roger Weingarten describes as "hellbent breathless" & Charles Harper Webb calls "balls-to-the-walls, full-speed-ahead language," "wired," as Joy Harjo puts it, "by a couple hundred horsepower & loud rock."

Nothing scary. You need only follow the link. I'll wait here with Walt Whitman for you. Now go on. What are you--afraid?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Poetics of Fear

As my plan for literary world domination slogs along, I take little solace in knowing it's at least more successful than the war in Iraq, one of the worst blunders ever made by any president, duly elected or otherwise, kaff, kaff.

My lack of a wider readership disturbs me, as it should everyone. Whereas many experts believe the continued American occupation of Iraq spawns new terrorists everyday, intelligence shows my poetry hasn't bore a single terrorist--nor married, divorced, or legally separated terrorists for that matter.

Frankly, my poems have contributed more to combatting terrorism than all the current counterproductive policies & so-called strategies.

If you're not reading me, the terrorists have already won.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Fresh Poetry



Good news, everybody!


Pudding House Press, the biggest small press in America--maybe the world, maybe the universe--has released my chapbook, Here's How.


For a mere ten dollars, less than the cost of a cup of really expensive coffee, you can enjoy well-crafted poetry selected from the hundreds of entries in the 2007 Pudding House competition.

Why overpay for coffee when you can own a professionally printed chapbook?

Unlike coffee, poetry does not contribute to hypertension, stillbirths, bladder & pancreatic cancers, dental discoloration, glaucoma & osteoporosis.

On the contrary, the therapeutic benefits of poetry are well known, having long been used for healing and personal growth.

Stop overspending on coffee & start feeling better today.

Here's How!