Archive for the ‘poetry’ Category

Poet Targets Taboo Topic Tuesday Night

July 15, 2012

Matthew Dickman with Ed Skoog and his infant son

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“It’s called three poems and three suicides,” Matthew Dickman said matter-of-factly about the title of his upcoming poetry recital.

He’s a poet from Portland, and at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program this week to teach an adult poetry class. On Tuesday night at 7 p.m., Matthew will read along with four other poets at the Krone Library on campus.

Matthew has firsthand experience with suicide, which is often considered a taboo subject in our culture. His older brother committed suicide, along with several of his friends who were artists.

“We often think of teens as the biggest group that commits suicide,” Matthew said. “But actually geriatric suicide is more common. When an 85-year-old grandmother quits eating, we accept that as ‘her time to go.'”

In past lectures on suicide, Matthew has asked members of the audience to stand if they have had a family member commit suicide. A few stand up. Then he asks those who had a spouse, lover or close friend commit suicide to stand. A larger group stands up. Then he asks those who have known someone from school or work who have committed suicide.

“By then, most of the audience are standing,” Matthew explained. “And those who are sitting fall into one of those groups, but are too shy to stand. Unfortunately, in our culture, it’s just a matter of time when you know of someone who has committed suicide.”

He said that his older brother was a great person, and had attempted suicide before, so it wasn’t a surprise. He recounted an experience with him in an Irish Pub in Portland:

“It got really crowded in the bar towards the end of the night and I bumped into a guy with my shoulder. It was an accident, but he grabbed me squarely on the shoulder,” Matthew recalled. “In the bar mirror, I could see the flash of a knife blade, so I tried to push him away. Within seconds, my older brother was there, shoving the guy up against the wall.”

Violence was more common than not in the working class Portland neighborhood where Matthew grew up.  His family home was a safe oasis for many kids, away from the neighborhood violence.

Matthew will teach a poetry class at Idyllwild Arts this week

At a young age, Matthew identified with a photo of the Beat Poets standing on a San Francisco street corner.

“There they were, Kerouac, Ginsberg and the rest, all standing there, not wanting to fight anyone or push drugs,” Matthew recalled. “They just wanted to change the world with their poetry.”

Later on, Matthew met Alan Ginsberg at a book signing in Portland.

“My brother handed me a bunch of Ginsberg’s books and told me to get them signed, and we’d meet up at the coffee house later,” Matthew said.

So he went, and when it came time for him to meet the Beat Poet, Matthew mentioned that his writer aunt had once worked with Ginsberg in a hospital.

“He ignored my comment, and instead asked me about my love life,” Matthew said.

He fumbled for an answer, Ginsberg signed the books and Matthew walked away.

“He was totally hitting on you, dude,” his friends said. “You should talk to him.”

When the crowd thinned out, Matthew ended up talking to Ginsberg, and invited him to join his twin brother and friends at a local coffee shop. Ginsberg was in his 70s at the time, and Matthew was 18.

“He was totally cool,” Matthew said of the experience.

They read poetry, practiced Buddhism and ate chocolates over the next few days. He said that he and Ginsberg had kept in touch by email and phone until he became sick.

“Then I never heard from him again,” Matthew said.

After his death, Matthew wrote a poem called, “I miss you, Alan Ginsberg.”

Matthew also wrote a poem about his older brother’s suicide in his first book of poetry, “All American Poem” (2008). With his twin brother, Michael, he wrote another book entitled, “50 American Plays” (2012), one for each state. In October, Matthew has another poetry book coming out entitled, “Mayaknovky’s Revolver.”

In his poetry class this week, Matthew prefers to put the suicide topic front and center so there’s no surprises. He said most of the adults who take his class come to heal from the experience.

“I don’t expect great writing,” he said. “Oftentimes, words escape you when your emotions are intense.”

But he hopes to help them turn their harrowing experience into art.

Matthew said that he met Ed Skoog, who is in charge of Poetry Workshop during the Summer Program, when he officiated at his brother’s wedding.

“Not only can Ed write poetry, but he plays a mean banjo,” Matthew laughed.

Besides teaching poetry, Matthew edits a national poetry journal, and freelances for advertising agencies. Only just recently, he said, he’s been able to support himself through his writing.

He started writing poetry when he was a sophomore in high school to impress a senior who was interested in poetry.

“She liked one of my poems, and we got to make out,” Matthew recalled. “After that, I just kept writing.”

Since then, Matthew has won many awards, and garnered national attention for his lyrical poems.

On Tuesday, July 17, Matthew will read some of his works at 7 p.m. at the Krone Library on the Idyllwild Arts campus (located at the end of Tollgate Road in Idyllwild). Like all events at Idyllwild Arts, it is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Idyllwild Arts at (951) 659-2171 or visit

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.




Parallax Student Magazine Now Online

February 29, 2012

(from L) Whitney, Editor-in-Chief, and Cali, celebrate the launch of Parallax online

By Marcia E. Gawecki

On Jan. 16, Parallax launched its online literary magazine and the Idyllwild Arts students had a big party to celebrate.

Parallax, which means, “a displacement in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight,” is often used by astronomers to measure distance. It’s also a cool name for a student literary magazine featuring multiple viewpoints.

Parallax has been published in a printed form since 1997, but just two years online. It showcases the writing of Idyllwild Arts students, mostly from the Creative Writing Department, but also from other majors, including Interdisciplinary Arts (IM), theatre, dance, music and moving pictures.

The students have expanded Parallax online to include submissions from other high school students worldwide.

Isaac, one of the editors, said the criteria for submissions was basic.

“We’re looking for good writing,” he said. “On our web site, you can expect high-quality literature.”

He went on to say that Parallax is not just a web site for writers.

(from L) Isaac receives congrats from Kat Factor, Idyllwild Arts poet-in-residence and head of the IM Department

“It’s an online literary journal,” Isaac. “It’s a collaboration.”

Well, you can see for yourself at It showcases the poetry, short stories, screen plays, theatre plays and essays. And some of the best visual images, photography and comics by visual artists at Idyllwild Arts. The combination is colorful, edgy, earthy and pretty terrific.

“Who says that high school students can’t write seriously, or that our voices can’t spark conversation within the literary community?” asked Whitney, the publication’s Editor-in-Chief.

“We think it’s possible. In fact, we know it’s possible. It’s what we’re doing. Parallax is a springboard into the writing world for serious young writers, and we want to hear from you.”

Some of the poems and story excerpts now featured online were recited on the night of the online launch. One by one, students came up to the “stage” before the fireplace, and recited their works. There was no microphone, and probably a predetermined time limit, but the works were high caliber and could match up to any Chicago “Poetry Slam.” The audience of 100, made up of students, faculty and staff, was enthusiastic and respectful.

It also helped that there was good hors d’oeuvres and raffle prizes.

“The next raffle prize is a bunch of Jesus post cards,” quipped Rebecca, as she called out the winning number amongst the holiday lights and decorations.

Some of the Creative Writers were theatrical in their recitals, like Isaac, who transferred from the Theatre Department last year.

“It’s easy for me to talk in front of others,” Isaac said. “But you don’t have to be a good speaker if it’s good writing.”

Isaac read a poem that he had written from a daydream. “Tearing open my abdomen like sand out of me/Doves of the dirt/It keeps coming/Mounds into mountains/Puckering the whites of my eyes.”

Branford dressed for the occasion and told a chilling tale of murder, mystery and lab rats.

Branford, a tall, lanky guy who was dressed up in a suit for the occasion, was the most theatrical with his loud, deep voice as he read his excerpt from “Door 29.” It was a graphic journey about lab rats, and an audience favorite, including Tima’s 12-year-old son, who wants to be a writer.

“He was the best,” the boy said.

Branford’s “Door 29” is a murder-mystery that occurs at a laboratory, with a bit of Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” thrown in. Here is an excerpt:

“You want to go up to them and warn them. Tell them to run. Fear paralyzes you. You cannot move. Your tongue lies limp in your mouth. It reminds you of one of Doctor Octopus’s severed bionic arms. You wish you were a superhero in this moment. Wish you were more than a boy trapped inside a man’s body. You wish you could scream and tell them to run.”

Whitney recited “Cain’s Lament,” a modern poem about Cain and Abel, that was set to music by Arik, and sung by Samuel, fellow music students, at “Idyllwild Arts Day in LA” last year. (You can hear Arik and Samuel’s version sung before the printed piece at Parallax online).

“I just love this,” whispered Andrew Leeson, an instructor from the Creative Writing Department.

Here is an excerpt from Whitney’s “Cain’s Lament:”

Over dinner God told us he was an atheist. He spelled it out for us: A-T-H-E-I-S-T. Christ admitted to being agnostic. “What happens,” my brother asked, “when you don’t believe in yourself?” God put an arm around him, led him to the edge of the wine glass, directed his clean eyes upon the World.

"We're looking for good writing," exclaimed Isaac, a Creative Writer.

“A child was murdered quietly in a market. A soldier shot civilians in the street as they pressed their heads against the barrel of his gun. A king ordered his subjects to hang each other and one by one they twitched and were still. A nuclear bomb obliterated one-third of the world’s population, but no one happened to be looking that way just then.  God stepped away from the wine glass, brushing smears of human blood from his sleeve.

“Oh,” my brother said. “Oh.”

Becky, Scarlett, Ariel, Erin, Michelle, Freida, Dante, Callie, Ruth and Maria all read short stories, and poems, to end a remarkable evening, a literary celebration.

You can read them all online at, or go to the Idyllwild Arts web site,, and click on Creative Writing and Parallax.

In other news, three creative writers–Scarlett, Becky and Maria–left for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) Conference & Bookfair in Chicago today. They will be reading and attending the 3-day event that starts on tomorrow, March 1, at the Palmer House Hilton.

“Margaret Atwood is going to be there!” Becky exclaimed of the Canadian poet/essayist/environmental activist. “We won’t get to meet her or anything, but she’ll be there presenting. Maybe I’ll just follow her to the bathroom and meet her then!”

Other AWP presenters include: Jimmy Santiago Baca, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Jennifer Egan, Forrest Gander, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Philip Levine, Ed Robertson, and Jane Smiley, among others. For more information, visit

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me.








Visiting Poet to Recite Friday Night

March 11, 2011

Visiting poet will read to Creative Writing students at Idyllwild Arts

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Zach Savich, considered one of the “New American Poets,” by the Poetry Society of America, will be conducting a Master Class for the creative writing students at Idyllwild Arts Academy at 3 p.m. today.

Then at 6 p.m., the students will take over and recite some of their work at the Parks Exhibition Center. Then at 7:30 p.m., Zach will read excerpts from one of his poetry books.

It’s been a whirlwind trip for the poet who had to get up at 3 a.m. this morning to catch a shuttle to get on a 6 a.m. flight from Denver. Last night, he recited at an art gallery near Fort Collins.

“It was really nice to look around and see beautiful artwork on the walls, instead of just rows of chairs,” Zach said.

He’s a friend of Kat Factor, head of the Interdisciplinary Arts (IM) Department at Idyllwild Arts. They went to graduate school together at the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

Now, just a few short days before Spring Break, the creative writing students were looking forward to Zach’s arrival. To introduce them, Kat sent Zach some of their poetry.

“It was really great work,” Zach said, who just accepted a job teaching poetry to college students. “I know they want me to give them some advice, but all I can say is: ‘Keep doing what you’re doing.'”

He said the group of 14 creative writing students likely read his book of poetry before his arrival today.

Some of the questions that he receives from students, in general, is how to get a poetry book published.  He said for him, it was relatively easy working with small publishers who make beautiful books, and take care of the promotion.

He hopes to impart some of his experiences as a poet and teacher to the group today.

“I read the proofs of my book at Dunkin Donuts. I was surprised by how happy the poems seemed,” Zach had written in a preview to his work on the Poetry Society web site.  “I had thought they held only panic, desperation, folly. I had no idea I had written a happy book.”

Zach’s Master Class and Reading is the last in a series of guest artists sponsored by the IM Department. It begins at 6 p.m. tonight, March 11, at the Parks Exhibition Center. The students will read their work followed by Zach’s reading at 7:30 p.m. Like all event held at Idyllwild Arts, it’s free and open to the public.

For more information, visit or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Mar 11, 2011 @ 17:20

Student’s Poems Appear in Magazine

February 7, 2011

Austin's poem was published in an online poetry magazine

“The Relationship of One Half, One, Two,” a poem by Austin, a Creative Writing Student at Idyllwild Arts Academy, appears in the January issue of Quill & Parchment, an online poetry magazine.

“The title is symbolic of the hierarchy of life,” Austin explained. “One-half is representative of a dog’s life, one a human, and two God.”

The poem is about a neighbor’s dog who was killed by a car. Austin had left the gate open and the dog got out.

“Writing the poem was a way to learn from the experience,” Austin said. “But it didn’t help alleviate the guilt. Not really.”

Here is an excerpt:

“We are

Dogs to the universe. Ready to be run over by a car.

God bless you, Liam. I hope you find it better there.

After that, we went up to the mountain

and scattered his ashes in the snow.

Guilt eroded onto my head like a river.

And on a walk, I pondered dogs’ lives,

and what they might live for, if anything.”

Austin is happy about getting his poems published

Austin got his poems published because of his father heard a story on National Public Radio about a Las Vegas gallery owner, so he told her about Austin. Later, Austin read some of his poetry at her house, where he met the Quill & Parchment contact.

“Getting my work out there into the world so strangers could read it is astounding. It was a major goal for me,” Austin added.

His other poem, “Rise of the Jellyfish,” about the WWII parachutes that hang over the Holmes Ampitheater on campus, will appear in the June issue of Quill & Parchment.

“That poem is a lot lighter,” Austin said, of the poem that he read at Coffee House, an open mic night on campus.

Here is an excerpt:

“What would it be like to live in a jellyfish

city, nebulous blobs suspended in water,

unrestricted by the Law of Gravity? Can you see it

gentle tendrils moving, slipping, finger-licking.

What kinds of secrets would jellyfish share?

The fall of man would most certainly bring about

the rise of the jellyfish.”

Copyright article & photo (but not poems) Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.