Poems of serious wordplay—an affirmation and celebration of the spectacles we make of our lives.
On-stage in Matthew Gwathmey's debut collection are agitated 19th century horsemen, 80s comic book beetles, plaid-clad suburban grunge enthusiasts, Korean aunts turned traffic cops, Parisian mimes—in short, “a multitude of horns.” Meanwhile, the “understories,” the sub-spectacles of these poems, are the everyday trials and thrills of marriage and family, the search for meaningful love and friendship, and the palpable relief at being able to perform not as a primary character in the cultural narrative, but as a member of an elemental audience, as “water/ at the bottom of the wind.?
Working a hand-mixer in one hand and a spade in the other, Gwathmey writes formally accomplished, linguistically playful poems with deep roots. He couples an implicit understanding of the stories passed down to us as necessary blueprints, with an occasionally nihilistic (in the spirit of the modernists) and occasionally giddy (in the spirit of the New York School) pull toward embellishment and reinvention, making these folktales rhythmic, humorous, and full of unexpected turns.
?Down out of the pilgrim wilderness of the shapeshifting, apocalyptic carnival midway of Parnassus, trailed by an entourage of troubadours, poet pro-wrestlers, lunatics, comic strip superheroes, brain scientists, cyberpyrotechnicats, emoticons, coders, and a covey of Acadian midwives spouting ancient spells, comes Matthew Gwathmey, twenty-first-century soothsayer?.” “Lisa Russ Spaar
?Our latest in poetry, Matthew Gwathmey's debut is a mishmash in the best sense, smushing superheroes, Mars colonies, psych wards, Radiohead, and a hundred other eclectic subjects into a blender for your poetry protein shake. Regardless of the reference, Gwathmey clicks words into place like Lego bricks, for precise, fun, colourful poems.” “Jonathan Ball
About the author
was born in Richmond, Virginia and studied creative writing at the University of Virginia. His poems have appeared in Grain, Crazyhorse, Prairie Fire, The Iowa Review, and other literary magazines. He became a Canadian citizen in 2013 and lives with his wife and children in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where he is a PhD student at UNB. He also works at The Learning Bar on Confident Learners, an Indigenous literacy program. Our Latest in Folktales is his first book.