I’ve spent the past couple of weeks reading through WITS students’ writing, preparing to pick the pieces for the 2009-2010 anthology. The truthfulness of the students’ work, and the pictures they create move me more than I ever expected, and when I heard Matthew Dickman read in a mosquito-y amphitheatre at Reed in July as a part of the Tin House Writers Conference reading series, I realized why.

Matthew Dickman’s reading was placed between those of two fiction writers, Jon Raymond and Antonya Nelson. For me, this brought out the fact that Matthew Dickman writes mostly about himself and his life: about the Lents district where he grew up, about the people who sit next to him in coffee shops, about the ankles of the woman he currently loves. These are the same types of things that the students’ writing focuses on, the things that really matter to them.

Many times, as I have found myself writing about moments that might mean nothing to anyone but me, I have felt a bit self-obsessed. David Shields, another writer who was at the Tin House Conference, wrote an entire book about why non-fiction writing is infinitely more important than fiction. A couple of the statements in this book, Reality Hunger, made me feel differently about writing for myself. Shields sees the world as a very lonely place, where we are all trapped within our walled little consciousnesses. Non-fiction writing, he says, provides a bridge between your consciousness and others.

This is exactly what I appreciate about Matthew Dickman, and about the student writers whose consciousnesses will soon grace the pages of the 2009-2010 WITS anthology.

Go to: http://www.fishousepoems.org/archives/matthew_dickman/ to read some of Matthew Dickman’s poems from his wonderful book All-American Poem (one of my favorite books of all time.)

Please comment on this post with writers who you feel share these qualities, or influence your own ability to write about what you live and think.

-Kelly, WITS intern