William Matthews

Did you hear Scott Simon’s interview with Edward Hirsch this morning (NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday)? The occasion was the publication of Hirsch’s book Poet’s Choice, based (I’m assuming) on Hirsch’s WaPo column of the same name, later taken over by Robert Pinsky.

William Matthews had pride of place in the interview, with a reading of his short poem “Grief”, and an antiphonal reading (sometimes I wish Simon would just shut up) of Matthews’ “short but comprehensive summary of subjects for lyric poetry”.

1. I went out into the woods today, and it made me feel, you know, sort of religious.

2. We’re not getting any younger.

3. It sure is cold and lonely (a) without you, honey, or (b) with you, honey.

4. Sadness seems but the other side of the coin of happiness, and vice versa, and in any case the coin is too soon spent, and on what we know not what.

Matthews observes (“Dull Subjects”), “It is not, of course, the subject that is or isn’t dull, but the quality of attention we do or do not pay to it, and the strength of our will to transform. Dull subjects are those we have failed.”

Hirsch’s original column, complete with “Grief” and the four (well, five, really, or maybe six) subjects, is online, as is a nice collection of Matthews’ poetry, and a review of Matthews’ Search Party, by Edward Byrne.

The most persistent theme in Matthews’s poetry becomes that of temporality, the unyielding progression of time as it weakens one’s abilities and eventually ends one’s life, especially in dramatic or tragic instances where mortality shuts down the gifted artist.

#2, of course.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *