Matthew Olzmann, whose first book Mezzanines arrives this April from Alice James Books, is a master of humor, surprise, and heart. I’ll never forget seeing Matthew read, well, perform, that first time in Detroit, several years ago, how stunned I was hearing his poems unfold. His ability to alter the reader’s perspective, to balance hilarity and ugliness, to create tension and surprise. How lucky I was to work with Matthew for several years at InsideOut Literary Arts Project, to hear his new poems, to see his work continue to mature and develop. I look forward to his first book with huge excitement.
The poem below, copied from Issue 6 of Anti- is just one sample from the web. But Google him and read as many poems as you can find before his great book comes. As I’ve been doing, whetting my appetite.
THE GALLERY OF FAILED FLIGHT ATTEMPTS
An entire exhibit is devoted
to Billy Nelson of Coatesville, Indiana, age eight.
The crumpled wings of paper planes that sank
like anchors into the rough sea
of living room’s shag carpeting.
The white sheet, once used as a parachute,
now hanging like a flag of surrender.
The stairs from his childhood home—
each one, a former launching pad.
These are all noble entries.
But look to the pedestal at the end of the hall.
See that empty jar?
It’s not empty.
That jar holds the blind faith that fueled his takeoff
on the day that he wore a red cape and safety goggles.
His heart buzzed with jetpacks and rocket fire,
Even the wobbly pigeons from his backyard
soared in this vision.
People told him anything was possible
as long as he believed.
People said this.