Poets.org How do you begin a poem?
Matthew Dickman Most of the poems I write begin with a simple word or idea. I’ll be drinking coffee and think “I like coffee!” and then I’ll start writing about how much I like coffee. It sounds pretty basic, I know. I suppose it’s the “like” that moves me to begin writing a poem—some sort of celebration in my chest wanting some words to understand itself, some sort of grief needing a body.
Poets.org What poets do you continually go back to?
MD I am always returning to Diane Wakoski, Bob Kaufman, Barbara Ras, Aimé Césaire—poets that have big, messy, hearts.
Poets.org Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poems?
MD I don’t think it’s changed as much as it has found some definition. More and more I feel that I’m writing poems to understand both the world and my place in the world. That, like Césaire wrote, it establishes me at the living heart of myself and the world … something like that!
Poets.org Are you on Facebook or Twitter? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?
MD I am on Facebook. It fits into my writing life in that it quickly allows me the possibility of reaching out to other writers and readers, to say hello, to celebrate some poem or other.
Poets.org Do you have a writing group or community of writers you share your work with? Who are they?
MD I have been writing with the same group of poets for 14 years: Michael Dickman, Carl Adamshick, Michael McGriff, Dorianne Laux, and Joe Millar. I’m also lucky enough to share my poems with Diane Wakoski, Major Jackson, and Matthew Lippman.
Poets.org What are you reading right now?
MD I’m reading William Olson’s new book of poems called Sand Theory. It’s incredible! Also a book called A Covert Affair by Jennet Conant, which deals with Paul and Julia Child’s time in the OSS. Yesterday I picked up Adrian C. Louis’s Bone & Juice and Wallace Shawn’s The Designated Mourner. I’ve also been swimming through Frank O’Hara’s book of essays and interviews, Standing Still and Walking in New York.
Read more about Matthew Dickman on Poets.org here.