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Fellowship Recipient Matthew Dickman

Matthew Dickman is a 2008 Oregon Literary Fellowships recipient in poetry.

Matthew grew up in Portland and earned his MFA at the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. He works at Whole Foods. His first book, All-American Poem, won the American Poetry Review’s Honickman First Book Prize and was published in 2008. He says, “my work is concerned with our everyday life.”

Does Matthew have a writing schedule?
I do not have a writing schedule. I write around a work schedule and on my weekends but I am a writer with very bad habits. One day I’ll be up early and writing while another day I will stay up late. But I am always trying to find time and when it’s found I sit down and try to work.

What inspires him?
Random things inspire me. The Talking Heads, The Pixies, a line I’ll read in a novel, a person …

What is he working on now?
Currently I’m working on a long poem called “Tulip” about the yellow tulip we find printed on the suicide help signs along bridges.

Poetry judge Larissa Szporluk had this to say about Matthew’s work:

“Captivating is the word that comes to mind; captivated by the lull of the poet’s voice as it introduces zany characters, colorful details, and describes familiar encounters in a fresh way. There is nothing predictable about these poems, and yet the haze of the familiar is just enough present to keep us glued, as if wishing to learn about ourselves through the speaker. It is difficult to achieve that kind of bond with the reader without the promise of suspense or tragedy. This poet accomplishes it by the sheer force of exuberant personality—a non-lethal Pied Piper showing us a multi-dimensional Hammelin.”

The Mysterious Human Heart

The produce in New York is really just produce, oranges
and cabbage, celery and beets, pomegranates
with their hundred seeds, carrots and honey,
walnuts and thirteen varieties of apples.
On Monday morning I will walk down
to the market with my heart inside me, mysterious,
something I will never get to hold
in my hands, something I will never understand.
Not like the apricots and potatoes, the albino
asparagus wrapped in damp paper towels, their tips
like the spark of a match, the bunches of daisies, almost more
a weed than a flower, the clementine,
the sausage links and chicken hung
in the window, facing the street where my heart is president
of the Association for Random Desire, a series
of complex yeas and nays,
where I pick up the plantain, the ginger root, the sprig
of cilantro that makes me human, makes me
a citizen with the right to vote, to bear arms, the right
to assemble and fall in love.

— Matthew Dickman