Search Party: Collected Poems

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Here he is reinforced as a writer of responsibility to form and tradition as well as irony and idiom, whether that heritage refers to literature, jazz, and epicurean delight or elegiac testimonies for those he has loved. Reading Matthews you get the impression that his insights and images and the syntax created by his inevitable ear have traveled g.

In the course of his remarkable career, Matthews placed in various magazines— from the ephemeral to The Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker—more than eight hundred poems. His brilliance and volubility are inseparable from his reserve—the tension between them is the core dynamic of his kinetic mind and demanding language. All the while the poems grow in size, texture, complexity, darkness, and acceptance of the given situation—or, at the least, a reluctant reconciliation. Reading Matthews you get the impression that his insights and images and the syntax created by his inevitable ear have traveled great distances to the page.

They have. They arrive distilled from a metaphysics in which thought is not only feeling but a coherent language, a language that must be mastered before it can be made. Snow Leopards at the Denver Zoo There are only a hundred or so snow leopards alive, and three of them here. Hours I watch them jump down and jump up, water being poured. Though if you fill a glass fast with water, it rings high to the top, noise of a nail driven true.


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Snow leopards land without sound, as if they were already extinct. I save them whatever I can keep and I pour it from hand to hand. The connections in this poem easily surpass discrete metaphor to become the total medium—submersion——through which they move: from the snow leopards to water to snow to fire to consuming debt to loss; from jumping to pouring to filling to counting to pouring.

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This genius for turning the most familiar materials into something extraordinary—both smart and moving at once—comes from his gift for making connections and exploiting them to the limit their language will bear. For all the normal changes in his writing, as Matthews matured he never surrendered his talent for the fragile, mortal moment that quickens the feel of things.

At times his tone may have sharpened— he loved Byron as much as he loved Martial—but he never gave in to the fragmentary, the broken, the piecemeal hard emotion.


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  4. He was continually a writer of the controlled but complete embrace. I think the soul of his work is closer to the toughness and sweetness of Horace, to the passions of mind of Coleridge, and to the nocturnal blues melancholy of all those jazzmen he revered. He grew up in Ohio, within the margins of both country and small city, pastoral and postwar urban.

    His father worked for the Soil Conservation Service. He rode a bike, had a newspaper route the Dayton Daily News , went to the county fair, played baseball and basketball, moved back to Cincinnati his birthplace , then later to a larger, eastern, Ivy League world. A not uncommon midwestern American story.

    Search Party: Collected Poems

    Yet he never lost his sense of humor about himself nor forgot where he came from. His complexity combined the Ohioan and the New Yorker, the boy and the man, beautifully in his poetry. In the transitional sixties, when he was a graduate student in Chapel Hill, Matthews met Russell Banks, also in graduate school and also starting out as a writer. They soon collaborated on what became one of the exceptional small literary magazines of its era, Lillabulero. The collaboration would fade but the friendship would last a lifetime.

    It says everything about him that a good portion of the poems in this collection first appeared in journals of often very short shelf lives. He became one of the premier poets of his generation, yet he remained faithful to the idea of where literature can find its first expression. His democratic instincts never failed him. Matthews was preeminently fair-minded, and this egalitarian spirit informed every part of his personality and permitted him to serve vital roles in American poetry culture at a vital time, from the Poetry Society of America to the National Endowment for the Arts. And his tireless support of younger writers, it goes without saying, began with his superb teaching.

    It is still difficult, for many of his friends and admirers, to believe that he is gone. The poems represented here are alive in ways and at depths that most poetry can at best aspire to.

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    The intimacy is never too familiar, the conversation never too friendly, the imagination never too busy, the wit never too sterling. The fault lines of heartbreak are everywhere, yet they map an intact emotion. Every gesture, every turn, every reverse is guided and governed by a classicism that values moderation, generosity, and, at just the right moment, an utter truth.

    And he knows he knows, without display. Reading this collection, front to back or intermittently at leisure, we love his mind, we celebrate the skill that lifts the quotidian to meaning.

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    And we love, even more, the man whose life was so much at stake in the words. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. Appeared in Publishers Weekly on With 11 books of verse in less than 30 years, Matthews established a secure reputation as a witty and trustworthy commentator on a particular bandwidth of his generation. His poems-most of all the touching semi-sonnet sequences of A Happy Childhood -spanned his own experience, from an Ohio small town to Manhattan literary life, with attentive excursions from Maine to Hawaii.

    Matthews had a way with quotable sayings: "Is love the reward, or the test itself? Maryland poet Plumly Now That My Father Lies Down Beside Me and Matthews's son Sebastian whose memoir Norton will also release in January have teamed up to produce what is, despite its title, not a complete poems but an attractive selection, what Plumly deems "the best of" this wry and likable poet's work. Edited by poet Plumly and Matthews's son, Sebastian, this volume presents a hefty selection of work from the poet's long career, including previously uncollected pieces.

    Forever a dutiful son, he celebrates his artistic ancestors-everyone from Nabokov and Auden to Lester Young and Mingus. The collection also includes excellent longer poems that make the philosophical "Wrong," "Right," "A Happy Childhood" not only concrete but unforgettable. Essential for all libraries. No redistribution permitted. This item was reviewed in:.

    To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities. Main Description. When William Matthews died of a heart attack in , the day after his fifty-fifth birthday, America lost one of its most important poets, one whose humor and wit were balanced by deep emotion, whose off-the-cuff inventiveness belied the acuity of his verse.

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    With Search Party, his son Sebastian and his friend and fellow poet Stanley Plumly have brought together a collection drawing from all of Matthews's previously published work as well as twenty-three never-before-published poems. Full of as much wisdom and song as heartbreak and loss, Search Party will bring a wider reading audience to this "poet of experience" and his benedictions of everyday life. With Search Party, his son Sebastian and his friend and fellow poet Stanley Plumly have brought together a collection drawing from all of Matthews"s previously published work as well as twenty-three never-before-published poems.

    When William Matthews died, the day after his fifty-fifth birthday, America lost one of its most important poets, one whose humor and wit were balanced by deep emotion, whose off-the-cuff inventiveness belied the acuity of his verse. Why not share! Embed Size px. Start on. Show related SlideShares at end.

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