Instructor Matt Guenette started writing poetry in high school to impress girls, but it didn’t work out quite the way he had planned.
“It turned out being a quarterback really was the best way to go,” Guenette said.
He may not have gotten the girl, but what he did get were two published books by the age of 38. Guenette’s work has also appeared in publications such as “Another Chicago Magazine,” “Barn Owl Review,” “Cream City Review,” “The Greensboro Review” and others.
Some of his first publications were in literary journals similar to the Yahara Journal at Madison Area Technical College. For students who are interested in getting published, Guenette said that the Yahara Journal is a good start.
“For the student who is serious, they need to be reading other poets and other journals,” said Guenette. That way they are able to figure out where their style fits and what they like best.
Another thing for writers to keep in mind is that rejections are common, especially in poetry. Guenette sent out his work pretty regularly, but was rejected many times. He said that publishing poetry is hard because there is no money in it. Poets enter contests year after year in hopes of getting published.
“I had a wall of rejections, I was pretty good humored about this,” Guenette said. “I knew that there would be a lot of rejections, so I had this wall filling up, but then the wall started to become actually demoralizing.”
Finally, in 2007 “Sudden Anthem” was announced as the winner of the American Poetry Journal Book Prize from Dream Horse Press. The book was then published in February of 2008. It contained what Guenette thought were his best 60 pages at the time.
“These are not poems I would write now. They came out of my mid-20s. The voice isn’t my voice anymore. The experiences look funny from this distance now,” Guenette said.
For the most part, he refers to his writing process as “collageing,” because he rarely knows what he is going to write about. Often times, he just goes to a busy place and takes notes on what he observes.
“I just have notebooks with lines and free writes and I kind of look at a handful of them and go alright, how can I put these together and then I wait for that story to kind of emerge,” Guenette said.
His second book, “American Busboy,” will be available next summer. At a recent poetry reading hosted by the Yahara Journal, Guenette gave a sneak preview into what the book contains. With his animated and somewhat stern voice, Guenette recited several comical poems. He drew laughter from the audience while he painted awkward, bold pictures from personal experiences in life, and in particular the service industry.
The book was completed in a summer. Many of the poems came from exercises he did with his students.
“In a way that book probably wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been teaching,” said Guenette. “I probably wouldn’t write as much or as well if I didn’t teach.”
In the 15 years he has taught creative writing, Guenette raves that his best students have been from Madison College. He draws inspiration from his savvy, energetic students, the strange, funny things they say and the discoveries they make.