Recognizing Objects (and Lives) for What They Are, Not What They Should Be: matt robinson’s Poetic Reality Check
Ever had a moment when you’re looking at an object, something you see everyday and barely notice, and realize that that thing is suddenly really important and has more meaning to you than you would ever admit to anyone else? Sometimes this feeling only lasts a brief moment and is gone, leaving you with a fleeting memory of emotion but no lasting effect. But sometimes, these moments of insight transform the object, retaining the significance of that insight for future interactions. While this strange experience can feel like you’re crossing into an alternate reality, matt robinson’s poetry interprets this phenomenon as a recognition of the true world around us. robinson’s use of seemingly mundane objects to highlight the intrinsic value of everyday living makes his poetry both beautiful and jarring to read.
The poem “Monster & the Big Blue Chair” from his most recent collection Some Nights It’s Entertainment; Some Other Nights Just Work, is a great example of robinson’s method. The main subject, the family chair which is “torn, its shoulders shrugged,” is transformed from an eyesore into a powerful symbol of what it means to truly love something through the poet’s contemplation of its past (robinson 2). robinson argues throughout the poem that objects which we interact with enough to abuse, such as the “eye-toothed heresies / done books” or “martyred action figures,” are better examples of what is important to us than those we try to protect (7, 9). He writes, “is this love as what we’d thought we adored – collected, / sure-shelved, secured – now scattered bereft / …no, this is love as pause” (11-12, 15). By attributing value to each object not by its appearance or condition alone, but by the process through which they became that way, their true worth is revealed. The snapshot of a messy living room which robinson begins the poem lamenting, is now appreciated and embraced as evidence of a happy, loving family.
Although many of us have made excuses for having an untidy home, (as my mother always says when guests show up unannounced, “our house is lived in, you know”), robinson’s poem takes a common experience which can be overwhelming, and uncovers its beauty. Just because your chair is ratty and old, doesn’t mean it is devoid of meaning. In fact, robinson argues that what an object loses in physical or practical worth is equally representative of its personal or emotional value. This is not to suggest that all of robinson’s poetry is optimistic, but simply that he endeavours to reveal the truth.
Thanks for reading! - Katlin Copeland.
robinson is set to release a limited edition chapbook entitled The Telephone Game this fall!
Check out matt robinson’s ACPA page for more info on the poet and his work.
robinson, matt. “Monster & the Big Blue Chair.” In Some Nights It’s Entertainment; Some Other Nights Just Work. Kentville: Gaspereau Press, 2016. 38. Print.
Last night I was introduced to a world where there are two suns and two moons, where water climbs instead of falls, and where a whole host of unfamiliar beings make their home. This is the alien planet Meniscus, where humans are harvested from Earth and sold as slaves to the two dominant humanoid races of the planet – the Dock-winders and the Gel-heads.
Meniscus: Crossing the Churn is a long narrative poem written by Jane Tims, under the pseudonym “Alexandra Tims”. It is the first book in a series that follows a genetically modified human man, known only to us as “the Slain”, and Odymn, a young human woman trying to survive the oppressive conditions she lives in. The two travel together through the Prell’nan District of Meniscus after the Slain saves Odymn from a violent gang of Gel-heads.
Aside from the poetry of Meniscus, interspersed amongst the pages are wonderful drawings done by Tims herself, drawing us further into the fantastic world she has created. Each drawing depicts characters – Odymn, the Slain, a Dock-winder, a Gel-head, even an Argenop named Wen-le-gone – and their interactions with each other and the environment around them. At the front of the book there is a map of the Prell’nan District, and in the back is a glossary of terms and a short guide to Gel-speak, the common language on Meniscus.
Yesterday evening, Jane Tims held a book launch and reading for Meniscus at Westminster Books, which I had the good fortune of being able to attend. Also there, was guest reader Zach Hapeman, a poet who writes for the young at heart. Hapeman’s light, playful choices of poetry to read contrasted nicely with the darker, thrilling excerpts read by Tims. A favourite of mine was a poem read by Hapeman about the hazards of having a supernatural boyfriend. Another highlight of the evening was an excerpt read by Tims where Odymn and the Slain were scaling a waterclimb (think the opposite of a waterfall) to get away from a group of Gel-heads. Where Tims chose to stop had everyone on the edge of their seats!
I encourage you all to check out both of these poets’ wonderful books. Meniscus: Crossing the Churn and A Crack in the Door (Hapeman’s book of poetry and illustrations) are each available on Amazon, as well as, I believe, at Westminster Books.
Until next time,
a.k.a. the girl who stays up way too late to finish a book then regrets it in the morning (even though it’s always completely worth it)