Matthew Guenette returns to Newport

“There is a splendid intercourse between the dream and the conscious life in Matthew Guenette’s poetry, a constant mental eventfulness that never rests, never surrenders to the old, dried up poeticisms or the stereotypes,” says Rodney Jones about Matthew Guenette‘s poetry in Sudden Anthem (Dream Horse Press, 2008).

Guenette returns to his hometown of Newport to the Richards Free Library on Tuesday, March 6 to read from his latest book of poetry, American Busboy. The program starts at 7 pm and is open to all free of charge.

Richards Free Library is located at 58 North Main Street in Newport, New Hampshire.

A 1990 graduate of Newport Middle High School, Guenette attended UNH where he studied with Hale Award winner Charles Simic.

He now lives in Wisconsin and teaches at Madison Area Technical College.

Sudden Anthem won the 2007 American Poetry Journal Book Award. His latest collection American Busboy was published by University of Akron Press in 2011.

With no apologies and with no mercy, but with an electrifying degree of lyric energy, Matthew Guenette brings the mindset of a stifled serving class to life in American Busboy. In this book’s world, “the restaurant /never asked you to /imagine imaginary /things like the brittle / bones of onion rings.” ….Using irreverent humor, clever lineation, formal invention, and alliteration worthy of Chaucer, American Busboy cuts to the front of the line for the attention of any lover of fresh, funny—yet movingly vulnerable—contemporary poetry. —Sandra Beasley, author of  I  Was the Jukebox

Reprinted with permission: After the Reading – a blog post by Matthew Guenette

Someone asks about influences, my favorite poets. I mention the usual suspects—Dickinson & Whitman, Frank O’Hara’s “Autobiographia Literaria,” Denise Duhamel & Dean Young. But it was comics—comedians—that hooked me on language.

When I was a kid my older brother would have to tag me along—mother’s orders. My brother had this friend; we would go to his house because he had one of those basements teenager’s dream of. Wall-to-wall carpets, cool posters, a Nerf hoop, wide-screen TV with Intellivision, beat-up bean bag chairs & a grungy oversized sectional sofa you could dive into. And the parents never came down. But most important was the record player & tape deck. I remember being swallowed up in a bean bag chair, totally mesmerized, listening to George Carlin’s A Place for My Stuff, Steve Martin’s A Wild and Crazy Guy, & this Richard Pryor cassette worn so thin the only way to rewind it was with a pencil by hand.

Even then, as a kid of 9 or 10, I sensed that what those comics were achieving had everything to do with structure. Like poetry, comedy is about timing—the ordering & strategic release of language within a form.

Because it’s related, I tell the story of Mr. C & The Little Jimmy Notebook. In 10th grade, a serious oversight by school administration allowed me & a handful of other extremely obnoxious trouble-making sophomores—sophomores who had no business being in the same class together—enroll in the same class: Mr. C’s “Creative Writing”. Little Jimmy was a boy we invented; basically he was a porn star with a retarded imagination. The Little Jimmy Notebook! We surreptitiously passed it back & forth, adding to & one-upping one another’s scenes with a ridiculousness borne of spectacular immaturity. One day when I was working on a story with a Christmas theme—something with a “Yule log”—Mr. C came up behind me & snatched the notebook from my desk.

While he read I imagined my imminent suspension, the phone call to my mother (my poor mother!), the cops, the FBI, the front-page of the local paper in all capital letters: “LOCAL IDIOT SHAMES TOWN”. Mr. C’s bald head turned red. He flipped the notebook back on my desk, then stood there considering what to do, a very long & pregnant pause where I felt doom & the blood pounding in my ears. Finally he said: “Well…At least you knuckleheads are writing.”

It was the best thing he could have done. He was right: we were writing. For most of us it was probably the first time since grade school that we’d written for our own pleasure & entertainment. I think of that day as a lesson in poetry—like the best comedy it should transgress, it should feel a little bit wrong & exciting like troublemaking, an arrow shot into the quotidian, something one does when one is expected to be elsewhere & doing something else.

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