“Write like you play”: An Interview with Matthew Lippman


Last week, we had the privilege of publishing Matthew Lippman’s poem, “Addiction.” Matthew is the author of three poetry collections: American ChewMonkey Bars, and The New Year of Yellow. We sent him some questions. Here are his answers.

If a ten-year-old kid came up to you and told you she wanted to be a writer, what would you say to her?

Write like you play. Write like you eat and sleep and ride a bike and go to school and hang out with your friends and talk about Rainbow Looms and baseball games and tangerines. Do it every day and have fun.

When you write, do you consider your audience? If so, how?

Most definitely.  My biggest concern/thought is that folks will be able to find the work accessible so I am always trying to keep that in mind. I want people who don’t read poetry to find my work entertaining and fun and meaningful. I teach high school kids and in some ways they are always in the back of my mind when I sit down to write. My work, I’d like to think, is a generous work that brings people in and does not push them away.

How does your poem, “Addiction,” represent the type of artist you are?

“Addiction” is just about my addiction to iced tea.  It’s a very small thing.  An everyday thing and that is the kind of artist I am, poet. I am an everyday poet. At least, that’s the way I think of myself.  Just a working stiff, run-of-the-mill, everyday poet.

Who do you think we should be reading right now, and why?

Here are a few titles that I have been enjoying lately: The two books of poetry that come to mind are Jamaal May’s Hum and Kerrin McCadden’s Landscape With Plywood Silhouette. May’s book is a gritty urban love song to a Detroit that comes alive in a completely beautiful way. McCadden’s poetry is mature poetry. It’s a poetry that incorporates the seriousness of a life lived in a way that feels uniquely sincere. And I mean that with gravitas.  Her poetry is a force to be reckoned with and embraced. No one, and I mean no one in American Poetry, is dialing it up the way McCadden is dialing it up. No knock against anyone else, I just feel the adultness in her to be quite refresing.

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