Joan Hanna: Matthew, we were so happy to have A Poem For Today as a part of our April issue. Can you share the inspiration behind this particular poem?
Matthew Gasda: This might seem vaguely melodramatic- but I wrote the poem on the morning of 9/11 this past fall. It was my first 9/11 living in New York and I felt in someway connected to the sense of grief surrounding that day which I hadn’t before. The poem obviously isn’t about 9/11, the title “A Poem for Today “could be applied to any day of grief– but that was the particular day of grief that set me to writing it… But a mood, an inspiration, is largely just the beginning of the poem, and I don’t think I could explain where any of the particulars in the poem came from– a deeper place in my own consciousness, at least, than I could trace in any exact way.
JH: This poem seemed to come from such a personal perspective. Can you tell us a little bit about other themes in your poetry and why you explore these topics?
MG: Well my first book, The Humanist, while it deals with death in a philosophical way, is a much more optimistic book on the whole than “A.P.F.T.” and the other poems that make up what will be my second book, “Memorium” (intentional misspelling). That is to say at least, The Humanist is largely about moments of joy, while Memorium is about moments of sadness. Both offer, however– or I hope they do at least– ideas about the possibility of recovery and healing. To me, poetry, philosophy, fiction, art, music– anything dealing with human existence– is an attempt to make sense on one hand of moments of sensuality in life– literally, the pleasure of being in a body; sex, smelling flowers, et cetera– and on the other hand, of dying– the knowledge and intuition that one will be stripped of one’s consciousness of all those nice, sensual perceptions. So for me, as a poet, it’s heartening to hear that you think a poem is “personal” because to me, these sorts of vast universal facts of birth and death, joy and sadness are deeply personal. The details might shift, but all of us are basically dealing with the same core existential situations and I want my poetry to work through that, both the good and the bad… APFT isn’t about any particular moment I’ve experienced but it’s an amalgamation of my experiences and observations about other people’s experiences that I hope comes together to make something that goes beyond just me, but still retains the sense of deep subjectivity… if that makes sense.
JH: The illustration paired with your poem, The Disintegration of Adam, by Darwin Leon, was a very striking image. How do you feel that this image enhanced A Poem For Today?
MG: The two works share the theme of disintegration, literally to lose integrity. In my poem, what causes disintegration is grief, or loss, presumably the same is true, though in a different way in Leon’s painting. Adam, for instance, is cast out of paradise, which is famously “lost.” The deeper point here, maybe, is that the integrity of our lives, of our sense of self, our ethics, whatever, is largely contingent. Our lives can be shuffled up at any moment for reasons that are way, way beyond our control.
JH: Please share with our readers any links to your book, The Humanist, your website or any current or upcoming publications.
MG: Here’s the link to my book: http://www.amazon.com/The-Humanist-Literary-Laundry-Chapbook/dp/1614182019 and if anyone is interested in my upcoming publications this year– there will be a book of poetry and fiction I believe– they can email me at email@example.com
JH: Matthew, thank you so much for sharing your poem and other insights into your process. Just one final question: Can you tell us what recovery means to you?