Reading Matt Hart’s poetry, I find myself negotiating undercurrents of a “normal life:” the job, the baby, the wife, the dog who definitely wants to move faster than her human, the confusion of a morning started too early; all of the elements of a life reaching middle stages, all its trappings but no ordinary observations wending into typical narrative form here.
Matt Hart agrees to let us witness the Venn Diagram of his inner thoughts, where his love of language meets his rock-n-roll heart. Coffee and the paper are not enough. I am reminded that there is a period of rock-n-roll I missed. Matt has archived that era for himself, and the blare of punk seeps through as he wanders an interior landscape, where the topography is constructed of fanciful images and the orchestration of the poet’s daily query to establish place, create meaning, dispel wonder. He is also bold enough to resurrect the poetic “O” and get away with it.
He risks our meddling. His reader has a spyglass of Matt’s specifications to witness the confusion a man feels when suddenly he looks around at his own trappings to see a world he created and, at the same time, stumbled into without realizing. Take, for instance, these lines:
Tonight the sun is shining, and I am joyful,
but why? The world is weird wired
and white as hydrangeas. I am joyful
in my blue plaid mind, even as I think
terrible thoughts against my wife,
my daughter, the leaders of my country.
There is no end to my terrible joy.
I am like a wolf with an egg in its mouth,
the yolk running over its mad lip curling.
The poet is not about to stray from his family’s routine but still there is a dark foreboding. He is at ease in his station as professor yet I hear a challenge in his poems, a slow rumbling of “Why are you listening to ME?” In the midst of this ongoing questioning of the universe, the magic realism never ceases to amaze Matt.
His is a world influenced by the masters who have gone before him, not just the sparse Zen of Philip Whelan or the angst of Johnny Rotten, but the singsong of Dr. Seuss, the acid touch of Lewis Carroll. There is the craft of the finest and the storm of a summer night. The Bootsy bassline and the order of a Wordsworth garden. Every poem gives me reason to stop, read it phrase by phrase, question the song of wind chime in late winter, challenge my own poetry to a duel of fascination.
As I sit in a seeming silence, the timer for the living room light to fool the potential interlopers ticking a frantic pulse, the late winter breeze outside creating a random etude, my coffee growing cold too quickly in my cup, I think maybe, just perhaps, I get it. Matt will let me know on Friday, as he breathes these words into air.
Georgia Popoff is a well-traveled teaching artist, community poet and currently serves as interim managing editor for Comstock Review. She is definitely someone you should know.