Poetry that radiates passion


Allie Christensen/Clarion

Poet Matt Hart reads a selection from one of his books during a visit to Madison College on Nov. 17. He was the guest of creative writing instructor Matt Guenette.

Megan Behnke, Staff Writer

On Nov. 17, poet Matt Hart paid a visit to Madison College to read some poetry and answer questions during a creative writing class at the Truax campus. Hart is originally from Evansville, Indiana, and is the author of seven books, two of which he read from. He claims that the “power of art is to connect us.”

The first poem he read was from his new book, “Radiant Companion,” called “Improvised Exploitation Device.” Hart read every line with passion and volume.He spoke loudly, moving while he read to punctuate every line. He ended the poem very suddenly, still bursting and red in the face.

Next, he read a section from “Radiant Action,” a book that is actually one long poem. This one was quieter than the previous, and funny. After reading the selection, Hart goes on to explain how he thinks of “Ache” as a foundation to that poem, which is a song from the group Jawbreaker. Hart told students that to be innovative, the need to be willing to do something ridiculous – like writing a poem based on a punk rock song.

Hart shared another poem called “Poem with a Course by Jawbreaker.” It started off quiet, almost too quiet. Then he started screaming/singing lines, pausing during every stanza break. He again gets quieter, but gradually builds into a crescendo as he concludes.

Before he read another selection from “Radiant Action,” Hart explained that his daughter Agnus appears in a lot of his poems. He said he started really getting into poetry when his daughter was just 5, and she’s 10 now. The next poem he shares, “The Awe Sound,” also includes his daughter, who only likes the poems she’s mentioned in.

Hart read a few other selections, interspersing a few stories with the students. Hart is an instructor at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. He teaches a class called “Giant Books,” where his students read long books. He once had his students read “Moby Dick.” For the class project, one of his students, Samantha, re-typed a chapter of “Moby Dick” 136 times, once for each chapter plus the epilogue. She memorized the chapter just by typing it so many times. He wrote a poem about that moment called “Immediate Neighbors.”

He concluded by taking questions from students:

Q: How did you first get your poetry published?

A: Started sending stuff but kept getting rejected. Started writing at 20 and didn’t get published until he was 30. He started getting published the most when he didn’t care and started a magazine in 1993 called Forklift Ohio. Some advice he gave was to find a way to insert yourself into community and be willing to sleep on couches. Go to things, take opportunities, be interested in other people and you will get published.

Q: How do you build a publishing community?

A: It’s hard to keep together. Start another magazine. Matt started Forklift with no money, and he said you don’t need lots of money to start a magazine. Find good people who deserve to be published. Stay close to someone you’re close with. Make time for it. He wrote 4 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. three days a week when his daughter was born.

Q: How do you stay driven?

A: Be different. Write every day. Never worry about writing anything good, making mistakes, or inspiration. Write about anything you want. To keep it interesting, you might want to repeat a line in an upcoming poem. Don’t worry about originality. Quantity leads to quality. He talked about his literature class that he taught and how he would have his students keep sketchbooks during the semester and to write, not draw, a description of something. At the end of the semester he would find one that caught his eye and would recycle the idea in his mind. He knew he was bound to stumble upon something good. He told students to pay attention to where language wants to go.

The whole session with Matt Hart was incredible. It was my first time seeing a poetry reading in real life and it was fantastic. The passion he had towards poetry and how dedicated he is to his work is what I want to be like with my writing.