By: Mathew Weitman
That which is not born is hatched from rib
to pull itself from ossified splinters
the heap of which becomes a place
to rest on
and pump blood to vitreous wings
The body happens and goes away
only once does it flit through hamlets of clouds
and grasp at the lees of other beings
to make shapes with all the space it isn’t in
Listen as the water leaves its surface behind
it is telling you that it is two lifetimes away
from where it wants to be in this one
Mathew Weitman is a New York-based poet, writer, and musician. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Unbroken, the Sow's Ear Review, Unlost, the Raw Art Review, and the Ekphrastic Review.
The recording features original music by Sqwks and was mastered by Timothy Steinman.
Interview with the Poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press:
How long have you been writing poetry?
Well, I suppose I got more serious about it after high school--but I've kept a notebook for as long as I can remember. As a kid I'd write a lot brooding poetry... I think that's how it started... but one day I tried writing when I wasn't upset, and it felt just as meaningful. That was a major turning point.
Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?
"Wales Visitation" by Allen Ginsberg.
Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
There are quite a few, but I'll try to keep it brief. I'm really into the ancient/hermit poets of China--Cold Mountain, Stone House, Li Bai. There's a lot of freedom in their words and yet they maintain a very serious wit and wisdom. Red Pine is my go-to translator for this--he has a profound understanding of their work, of the language, and the cultural significance of what these hermits were doing up there, all alone, in the mountains. To keep up with the topography, I really love the Black Mountain School as well--Charles Olson in particular. Louise Gluck has influenced me greatly over the years. So has the Oulipo...
How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?
Well, Creeley and Olson had that famous doctrine "form is no more than an extension of content." I think that's true. While writing to fit a certain structure (a sonnet, for example) is an exercise I use when I'm stuck, if I don't eventually break that structure it always seems a bit gimmicky. I like the way certain poems look on a page, but I don't always know why. And yet, I always seem to know why I don't like the way something looks on the page. Jigoro Kano, the founder of Kodokan Judo, has an expression: Seiryoku Zenyo. This means "to put one's energy to use most efficiently". I think this is especially important in writing. Sometimes I try to do way too much to make a small point. In fact, I think I'm probably doing that in answering these questions.
Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
Write more, read slower, and don't try to have just one voice. How many Bob Dylans does Bob Dylan do?
What is your editing process like?
I'm constantly revising stuff. This poem, "The Mayfly [Again]" is something that I started writing almost eight years ago. It has gone through all kinds of phases and structures. At one point it was going to be a sweeping title poem in a chapbook--I think the longest draft was four pages... I don't know how it got to where it is now, but it probably has a lot to do with that idea of Seiryoku Zenyo.
When do you know that a poem is finished?
I know I should have an answer of my own, but I'll quote Paul Valery: "No poem is ever finished, only abandoned."