2010 Festival Poet: Matthew Dickman

Posted on by Dodge

Khalil Murrell, Program Associate, Poetry

MaDickmanPhotoIn the great, big ol’ picnic of Matthew Dickman’s poems, everything is eligible for singing: a glowing, off-the-vine “Roma,” the chicken hung in the window in “The Mysterious Human Heart,” and even the skinny girl wearing a Talk Nerdy to Me t-shirt in “V.” His poems enter and re-enter the strange and heart-wrenching places of American life (see “Lents District” and “Trouble”) without leaving us in sentimentality or despair. He takes us to places as democratic and basic as Walmart without simplifying the complex world into “Love” and roses.

Dickman’s debut collection, All American Poem, offers rich tensions between humor and heartbreak—even the joyride through sorrow—that fill our everyday lives. In fact, like Jeffrey McDaniel and Tony Hoagland, Dickman often employs jest and witticism on his way to poignancy. Watch him read “Slow Dance” below.

We’ve all heard more people write poetry than those who read it. True or not, this sentiment may result from the belief that poetry—arguably the most democratic of all the arts—feels removed at times from its capacity to engage the masses. But with a Whitmanian catalog style that spills down the page, Dickman seems to have found a way to write inclusive and accessible, yet densely complex poems that help bridge the gap between high art and the mainstream. “I want to write poems I want to read, in a way,” the Portland native said in an interview. Matthew and his brother, Michael Dickman, may be the closest thing the poetry world has ever come to having a phenom, including being profiled in the New Yorker and having a small role as a pre-cog in Minority Report with Tom Cruise. But the hearty muscularity and generosity of his work suggest both Dickman and his poems will be around for a long time to come.

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Return in the weeks ahead as we continue to profile the 2010 Festival Poets.

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The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in Newark is October 7 – 10
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