Matthias, John

John Matthias - Collected Shorter Poems Vol. 1


John Matthias - Collected Shorter Poems Vol. 1

Paperback, 288pp, 9x6ins

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Chronologically the first, Collected Shorter Poems, Vol. 1 is editorially the third of John Matthias's three-volume Shearsman Collected Poems. It includes the poems that first made Matthias's reputation—experimental work like 'Turns — Toward a Provisional Poetics and a Discipline'; politically activist poems from the 1960s and '70s such as his elegy for the Kent State University students killed by the Ohio National Guard; poems written from his fifteen years of living off and on in Suffolk; poems articulating an aesthetic of play-and-game like 'Clarifications for Robert Jacoby'; along with several epistolary poems, explorations of place, and family-oriented lyrics, such as the often translated and reprinted 'Poem for Cynouai.' The book also contains a section of monologues and a song-cycle text, translation-based sequences, and selections from his very earliest work serving as a kind of frame as both the first part of the book and the last.


This volume joins Collected Shorter Poems, Vol. 2 and Collected Longer Poems in bringing together all of the poetry, with the exception of Trigons (available separately from Shearsman), that Matthias wishes to preserve. When three of the books from which these poems are selected first appeared in print, the critical response was very enthusiastic — The TLS admired the "virtuosity" of Turns and "the way life presses into the poems" (D.M. Thomas), and found that in Crossing the poet "was bursting with masterful intelligence" (John Fuller). Reviewing Northern Summer, Jeremy Hooker wrote — "In his combination of lyrical and discursive voices, as in subject and concern, Matthias has an exciting range… He writes in some poems from a tension between a scribe's respect for the integrity of his materials and a magician's freedom to transform them, and in many poems he brings together the contrasting gifts and is fully present as himself, both scribe and magician."

Others have written — Matthias is a poet "whose exceptionally original work has something of David Jones' magpie eclecticism and much of his sustaining interest in specific re-imagined historical occasions" (Neil Corcoran); "His poetry is a splendid fusion of engaging subjects and masterful technique" (Guy Davenport); "Matthias is a polymath without pedantry, his work emotionally layered and intelligent (Robert Pinsky); Matthias has exhibited "a breathtaking range of styles and forms" (Marjorie Perloff).


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