Tag Archives: Poem

Artist Feature: Matthew Potter

Matt Potter is a creative writer who grew up in Kentucky and Virginia before settling into San Diego, California. He reminds us that, as artists, we should try to avoid forcing our messages, and instead try to communicate our perspectives in clear ways. Matt also argues that reflection on both positive and negative responses is beneficial to artistic growth, and that past artistic pieces can serve as snapshots of captured Reflection and Response. Woven in throughout the interview below, Matt provides dope perspectives, scenes, and imagery in his poems ColleteCasey’s Last Bat, Night NoisesThe Day Timothy Died, and Three Thoughts on New Orleans. Check it!

Matthew Potter

It is important to reflect on both the negative and the positive responses. Both are going to drive you and hone your craft.

– Matthew Potter

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

MP: Well, I am an Army Brat, so I bounced around a little. Not as much as some, though. I was born in Fort Knox, Kentucky, but spent my formative years in Newport News, Virginia. I’ve been in San Diego, California for the last thirteen years. I was only supposed to be here a year, but California has a way of dilating time.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

MP: In writing, I take it to mean reflection in your own work, or the reflection of others on your work. Often, it takes someone else’s reflection and response to initiate your own. I think as a young writer, it is extremely hard to self-edit (for an old writer too), because you try to put a piece of yourself in that work, and when it doesn’t sync with someone then you want to dismiss them.  When I read my own, or others’ work I ask myself, “What is this trying to tell me?” Not just on the surface but on a deeper level. The point of all art forms is to communicate, so you want the message to be clear. When a poem or story doesn’t work, often the writer’s message is muddled, and the same when my work doesn’t work for others. The best advice I received was from a Creative Writing professor in college. She told us “You can’t jump out of the page and tell your reader, ‘No, you’re not getting it! I meant you to read it this way!’” So, I try to approach everything in that manner, even work e-mails. Granted, there are going to be times where you and your reader are just on different trips, and that same piece will resonate with so many others.

I think it is important to reflect on both the negative and the positive responses. Both responses are going to drive you and hone your craft. Also, I think it is important to go back to old pieces. I have come across pieces I have written years ago, that I thought were great, and came away thinking, “God, did I write this existential piece of crap?” But I won’t throw them away. It is like having a time capsule of your very specific thoughts at that moment.

On a personal level, I probably spend too much time reflecting. It is easy to get caught up in the past and believe you should have done something different. As Jack Kerouac said, “Accept loss forever.” But having said that, I think it is important to take a little time to reflect on your mistakes so you learn from them.

Collete

Oh how I long for a thin-legged French girl named Collete. She would take long drags of her cigarette. Shoot a stream of smoke pushing it through the air, as she rolled her cold black eyes toward a paint-chipped ceiling–exhaling all the stupid things I just breathed into her.

And when she was mad she would huff and stammer in French as she kicked my empty wine bottles across cold wooden floors. She would always be in bed before me, and I would lie on top of the sheets beside her–staring up at our paint-chipped universe alone. Watching Paris spin around me.

And in the morning the sun would breath through pale wind-rustled curtains as shafts of light pry our eyelids open. She would roll over and bury her head in my chest, and we would lie there for an eternity as I engulfed her long dark hair.

How does your work fit in with that definition?

MP: Probably one of the hardest things I find in writing is to have a title that fits your piece, but doesn’t give so much away to your reader. This is probably why I title my pieces after I have written them. It is reflection during the creative process. Occasionally, a title will come to me and I’ll build on it, but it is not the norm. I want to set the tone or a mood with the title, without telling the reader exactly what [the piece] is about. Some of the best poems I have read, Charles Bukowski immediately comes to mind, are ones that have me go back to the title after I have finished reading the poem, and find that the titles are one-line poems themselves. The good ones always make you have that first sip of coffee reaction (the “mmmm. . .” effect). I would love it if my titles could have that response on my readers. I think it is a bit of a cop-out to have too many of your works untitled or have the title be the first line of the poem. Not only for your readers, but for yourself in not reflecting on your piece before you send it off.

Casey’s Last Bat

Every spring, in Havana, when the sugar cane stalks became thick and green

and America still held such promise,

the Dodgers would knock the red clay dust from metal spikes.

Hemingway would breath in the salt soaked air and

run rumrunners down a thick bearded sun burnt throat.

He and Casey would decide who the

Heavy Weight Champion of the World was that night.

Maniacal roar of the home team crowd,

pleading of a Hemingway’s wife,

“Life should be different than this.”

Genius soaked in alcohol and pain,

but he held her tight on warm spring nights

and told her that life was beautiful and worth fighting for.

Shared drinks would bleed into morning,

day’s tomorrow would begin again.

And when October winds had whipped

the baseballs clear of the diamond fields,

Casey’s glove, beaten and worn‐‐sad with the past,

lay stored in an unmarked box in the dark closet.

Casey gathered his strength and lifted not a bat,

but a shotgun and calmly put the barrel to his throat.

Hemingway said, “He did it like a man.”

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

MP: I have several poems that have been published here and there. I would like to get a collection published. Either a chap book or a complete collection. I’ve found it difficult to gather the ones I wish to see published in a collection and come up with a title for that collection. I would say the majority of it is making the time to make it happen. I certainly use the excuse of life’s minutia getting in the way.

Night Noises

You start to hear everything after midnight

in the middle of the week maybe,

when the summer air is thick and heavy.

The buildings are still.

Breeze pushes trees-rustle of leaves,

loud whispers in the night.

Lonely birds that sing at 2 am,

just when you thought everything was asleep.

The hurried scatter of gravel as the cat rushes through,

chasing a cricket or the moon.

 

I focus on my breathing, as if hearing it for the first time.

Thinking about every molecule rushing in and out of my mouth.

Squeaking protest of the bed as I try to get comfortable.

The refrigerator suddenly awakened-hums itself back to sleep.

The faucet that rains tepid drops–pling, pling, plop.

A stray car’s tires rolls across cool asphalt.

And somewhere in the dead streets and abandoned beaches

a barbaric yawp tears through the night,

as morning starts to awaken the rest of the world.

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Feature: Jessica Quick

Aright y’all it’s again that time! This week the Collective welcomes Jessica Quick to the Feature series dialogue! Jessica is coming from a place and space unable to be captured by one setting or time. She brings a perspective shaped through elbow-rubbing experiences traversing time zones across the globe, expressed through her creative writing. Anchored in mood and narrating through observation, Jessica takes the time to dive into her interpretation of Reflection and Response, providing a pint of insight into her path thus far. Take a look at her interview and her poem Daffodils below. Enjoy the ride; Bon Voyage.

Jessica Quick

A city’s mood, its mannerisms, its charisma (or lack thereof) reflect in its inhabitants and its architecture, and I like those things to feed into my reconstruction of a city through words.

-Jessica Quick

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

JQ: I’m from Simi Valley, California, a synclinal suburb squatting outside of Los Angeles. Its geography and demography made it perfect for routine brush fires and a large population of conservative right-ists when I was growing up. It’s an awkward little city, and I’ve come to appreciate its quirks. In doses.

 In the past few years, I’ve lived in Harlem, Seoul, San Francisco, Madrid, and I’ve just relocated to Brooklyn a week ago. I’m looking forward to sticking around and getting back in touch with some old literary haunts, as well as my writing projects. I’m juggling a few ideas, and I think New York is the perfect place to explore them.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

JQ: Reflection! A necessary trait of response that’s learned with time, I suppose. I’ve traveled a bit, and it always takes me a long time to arrive at a place where I feel I can appropriately reflect on a city. What I like to do is feel out (and up?) places through my writing. I love infusing their bodies into my poetry. A city’s mood, its mannerisms, its charisma (or lack thereof) reflect in its inhabitants and its architecture, and I like those things to feed into my reconstruction of a city through words. Like getting to know someone new, attaining depth of a place just takes a little time. I wrote about New York when I was in Seoul, about Seoul often when I was in Madrid. And I still haven’t touched my hometown.

How does your writing fit in with that definition?

JQ: Although I like using my travel experience in my writing, I try to avoid relying too heavily on personal perspective. For example, I like creating stories that are not necessarily my own, but in a setting with which I’m familiar. Or I’ll use a mood that I may have felt in a certain city, but explore new lyrical narratives in a poem. I strive towards creation and embellishment over accuracy in retelling my response to a place. Maybe that makes me a liar. But I like telling stories. I think it’s boring and a bit vain if they’re all mine.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

JQ: I’m working on my first poetry collection, The Liminal Parade. It’s about spaces between here and there. I like writing about travel limbos, like subways, elevators, long plane rides. I’m also paying attention to certain psychological in-betweenness that mirror in those subways, elevators, and long plane rides – traveling for long periods of time without destination, waiting for someone to arrive, and indecisiveness are things I’m teasing out in my poetry. I like writing about hybrid existences because it hits close to home, both with my travel and with my mixed ethnicity. I’ve dwelled in the in-between and it’s an awkward, beautiful place.

I have a few other projects in mind for the future and the now. I’ve been talking to a few artists about comic book ideas and collaborations on creating some illustrated poetry, which I’m very excited about. I’m a huge comic fan, and the prospect of writing one makes my nerd heart skip a beat.

Who or what inspires you?

JQ: On the topic of comics, Daniel Clowes and Jason Lutes are my favorites for their dark humor and stark aesthetics. The Hernandez Bros. and Chris Ware are also stunning, although Ware makes me want the world to be a better person.

For poets, my current obsession is Frank O’Hara because I spent so much time writing about him for my MA thesis, which compared O’Hara and Lorca’s poetry in New York. I appreciate his unabashed exhilaration with life in his poetry, and how much his personality shows. And if O’Hara were still alive, I’m pretty sure he would be the coolest person in the world.

Of course, big cities inspire me as well as the people I meet. I am indebted to the city dwellers – from the rush hour flautist in Tokyo to my life-long companions. They accompany my memories of the cities I have grazed in my wanderings.

Is there anything else you would like the Collective to know?

JQ: We are poised in an interesting moment in history. From the state of the world economy, to the persistent race for technological advancements and subsequent dependency, we are witnessing rapid change in the world around us. We are responsible for how we choose to respond to these changes. To artists, I encourage you to create something beautiful in reflection of the environment around you.

 Shout out to…

JQ: Big love to all the creators and rabble-rousers. You make the world go round. And a big shout to a very talented jazz musician, my inspiration, and my husband-to-be, Daniel Stark.

Daffodils by Jessica Quick:

Daffodils

The first poem I ever wrote

was written by Wordsworth,

a posture of lines followed by

a school teacher’s request:

“Please see me after class.”

 

I never showed and

swallowed my first D –

literary theft on record

as enraged or defensive.

 

Years later, I found myself

writing poem after poem about daffodils.

Bought them any chance I could get.

I filled large suitcases with piles

of laughing heads and moved

to distant corners of the world.

 

Every town I visited,

I left solitary specimens

behind nondescript buildings

and cheap hotel rooms.

I remember one figure

splayed out like a brown

carcass of envy squatting

on the menu of a fish restaurant

in old Beijing.

 

After the last, I moved to an island at the edge of a map,

where (they said) daffodils could never grow.

I spent my days planting gardens near tough rocks.

At night, I counted holes in obscure constellations

where great, big, burning stars used to be.

Keep up with more of Jessica’s work at her website: www.jessicaquick.wordpress.com

Also check out Penumbra Magazine, which Jessica co-founded in 2012. She is currently the Poetry Editor for the magazine: www.penumbramagazine.wordpress.com

Reflection and Response.

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Patchwork: Questions, No. 2

Installment No. 2: The Things That Bring People Together.

The Patchwork: Questions collaboration series involves a process of reconstructing the written word. Through weaving together words from Samuel Bostick’s Questions project, I seek to create opportunities for readers to visually interact with original texts. The content for this piece comes from Questions, Take 3.

From Patchwork: Questions, No. 1 (All Good Things Don’t Last)

I’ve always been interested in the aesthetics of words and lettering, and Samuel’s “Questions, Take 2” from a couple weeks ago inspired me to explore this interest in a new way. I built this piece similarly to how one would build a poem word by word, line by line, but I looked at re-interpreting several visual characteristics such as font, color, size, and placement. Starting at the beginning of Samuel’s poem, I gradually wrote down each line,  but without a linear structure. Lines that were successively linked in the original writing were separated, and other lines were either layered over them or woven through them.

To me, breaking down and re-creating the original poem opens up the text to multiple new meanings and readings that may have been submerged previously. Words and lines that are woven together or placed near each other can be read separately to retain their original meanings but can also be read together to form new sentences with expanded meaning. This is another example of what I think of as “visual sampling,”  where the viewer’s interaction with the piece is a central part of the process of visually breaking-down and reconstructing Samuel’s powerful words.

Reflection and Response

V.

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Patchwork: Questions

I’ve always been interested in the aesthetics of words and lettering, and Samuel’s “Questions, Take 2” from a couple weeks ago inspired me to explore this interest in a new way. I built this piece similarly to how one would build a poem word by word, line by line, but I looked at re-interpreting several visual characteristics such as font, color, size, and placement. Starting at the beginning of Samuel’s poem, I gradually wrote down each line,  but without a linear structure. Lines that were successively linked in the original writing were separated, and other lines were either layered over them or woven through them.

To me, breaking down and re-creating the original poem opens up the text to multiple new meanings and readings that may have been submerged previously. Words and lines that are woven together or placed near each other can be read separately to retain their original meanings but can also be read together to form new sentences with expanded meaning. This is another example of what I think of as “visual sampling,”  where the viewer’s interaction with the piece is a central part of the process of visually breaking-down and reconstructing Samuel’s powerful words!

Lets have a running dialogue in the comments section considering patchwork phrases and meanings that resonate with y’all! Looking forward to your input.

Reflection and Response

V.

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