Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Write Stuff: Matthew Zapruder on Language When It Starts to Get Liberated

Posted By on Thu, Apr 10, 2014 at 8:00 AM

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen, where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

click to enlarge MEGHAN DEWAR
  • Meghan Dewar

Matthew Zapruder is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Come On All You Ghosts (Copper Canyon 2010), a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and Sun Bear (Copper Canyon 2014). An assistant professor in the St. Mary's College of California MFA program and English department, he is also an editor at Wave Books. He lives in Oakland. See him read at City Lights Bookstore on Tuesday, April 15.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them... ?

If in their eyes I detect the usual understandable flicker of disinterest about the conversation, in order to let us both go on our peaceful separate ways, I say "English professor." If for some reason they seem to really want to talk, I will say "poet." More often than not something weird happens after that.

What's your biggest struggle -- work or otherwise?

My own distraction.

If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?

There is a pretty low barrier of entry to poetry. All you need is a brain and something to write with and on. I think most people can write poetry, that is, can start to feel that spark of language doing something it does not ordinarily do, if they want to get themselves in the right mindset.

First, they have to stop thinking poetry is just a way to express deep emotions or feelings through fancy or heightened language: that's really just bad prose with some decorative and useless line breaks or rhymes. When I teach beginning poets, I mostly just try to use simple exercises and other structures so they will get to feel that thing language can do when it starts to get liberated. Some of them get really interested in it, and then before they know it, they are poets. And if someone is serious about poetry, I can share with them the many things I do (writing and reading) to keep getting to know the material, i.e. language, which takes a lifetime, at least.

What are you working on right now?

Right now I'm working on a prose book called Why Poetry, which will be published in 2015. It's for general readers, and I really hope it will help people get over some basic fears and misunderstandings about poetry. It's also an argument for the importance of poetry, not that poetry needs such an argument to be made for it, but it's interesting for me, and hopefully for readers, to think about.

What's the strangest thing you've ever seen?

I've seen the Marfa Mystery Lights, and I love that no one seems to really be able to explain them.

For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook. This interview conducted by Sarah Ciston. Follow Litseen at @Litseen.

  • Pin It

About The Author

Evan Karp

Comments


Comments are closed.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook

Slideshows

  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"