Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Latest From Frank Matagrano

I just received a copy of “There Is Nothing to Love about Los Angeles” (Pudding House Publications: 2006) from Frank Matagrano. This is the first book of poetry in a long time that I devoured upon the first reading. There is a decidedly Whitmanesque flavor to this with titles such as: “Song of Myself in a Hotel with a View of the Pacific Ocean”; Self Portrait With Beating Heart in Your Hands”; “Self Portrait with Another Man”; “Self Portrait with iPod” & “Allowing the Body to Finally Speak”. The poems are introspective and lyrical:

From the title poem:

There is nothing to love about Los Angeles
-----except the idea of leaving

My life in your hands, the idea of you
-----carrying it from one palm tree

to the next, stepping on stars
-----pinned to the sidewalk, stopping

Then from “Song of Myself in a Hotel with a View of the Pacific Ocean”


I am a historian of hallway conversation.
-----I know word for word

How a knock-knock joke begins. I am
-----an expert at doors

From “Self Portrait With Beating Heart in Your Hands”

…There are too many
people to adore and I am
embarrassed to admit
that I do not remember
the names of everyone
who touched me.

& “Self Portrait with iPod”

My song is the kind you love
-----but would never admit
In mixed company. It’s like this
-----in heaven, too, where the lung creaks
Open like a rickety screen door

Or “In the Dim Television Show”

I carry a copy of the book you read,
--------the book of poems
--you once read to me. This way, I can live

with a connection, something
-------like organ music, say Bach
--coming from an alarm clock speaker.

-------I have to be
completely alone when I read

and I have to do it right
-------before bed if I want any say
in how the dream plays
----------itself out.

Finally from “22 Minutes”

There’s a radio station that will give you
-------the world if you will give them
-----twenty-two minutes. I had five, enough
to hear about a plague of Mormon crickets
-------that turned Utah roads blood red

-----and a thousand Iranians who took to the streets
of Tehran in the name of reform for the fifth night
-------in a row. On my road - and I couldn’t
-----tell you how many times I’ve gone
down it – reception grows weak the further you drive.

There is much to like here as each poem resonates with this reader on one level or another. The poems peel away the different layers of the self like an onion being carefully sliced ply after ply revealing a different aspect of the self until along with the speaker of each poem we arrive at the inner core. We find ourselves staring at a persona we may or may not have known existed. The discovery of the self is one that is devoutly to be wished as a cathartic journey – even if it not the persona we expected to find.

P.S.: Thanks, Frank, for sending this one out to me.


Gene B said...

I'd like to thank you for this superb review of Frank's book. It was as much a pleasure to read as it was to typeset and produce the book itself.

We take great pride in our poets and their stunning work within the art form. Pudding House considers each and every one of them a national treasure and Frank is a superb example of why we feel this way.

Again, thank you from the Pudding House Staff.

Gene Bradford, Art Director

Nick said...

I first came across Frank's work online and marveled at his poetic voice. Thank you for your kind words. The pleasure was all mine.

nate said...

Kudos, on a great review, Nick, and a nice sampling of Frank's new work. What I love about it are the things left unsaid, which are just as much part of the poem as the text itself... Thanks for this...

Nick said...

As Mary Kinzie says in "A Poet's Guide to Poetry": "What a poet keeps out of a poem is as necessary to its success as what the poet lets into it." Thanks, Nate, for your words of encouragement.

shann said...

Frank has always been a favorite of mine, it's good to see this wonderful book (and coming from Pudding House, too- they do such great work).

I'm glad you pointed this one out.

Nick said...