Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

Poet Targets Taboo Topic Tuesday Night

Sunday, July 15th, 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.




Creative Writers Recite

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Ruby and Joey perform a love song from Sunny's musical

It’s always better to hear an author read. It’s an authentic voice. And a treat, if they ever become famous.

Many times, I’ve sat in bookstores, listening to authors read. I close my eyes and try to envision what they are saying. Most of the deliveries were presented in a monotone voice. There was no three-piece band, singers, or accompanists to “jazz” things up. But that was then, and this is now. Even readings on the high school level, there is more of a “show” with actors and musical instruments.

“Senior Readings” in the Creative Writing Department at Idyllwild Arts began on Wednesday night, May 26, but I missed it. Two seniors, Dustin and Khalid, read poems and excerpts from their short stories.

Khalid, who attended the second reading on Thursday night, said that people in the audience Wednesday night got pretty emotional when he read, “At the Diwan of Rumi in Afghanistan.”

“They started to cry, then I almost cried, but I couldn’t because I had to keep reading,” Khalid said.

His sponsor wants to help him publish his last piece, “In Search of My Youth During the War.” She is a screenwriter with connections in Hollywood, and is eager to get started, he said. But he wants to wait.

“Because my parents aren’t here, and it doesn’t seem right,” Khalid said.

On Thursday, May 27, three seniors were slated to read, including Jordan, Sunny and Emma. However, before they began, Kim Henderson, head of the Creative Writing Department gave a little preview. She said she had been working with these three students for three years now, and what they were about to read was some of their best work.

Emma read her poems, short stories and excerpt from her novel

Each of them were required to read for 15 minutes, but they decided to break it up and take turns reading two pieces each until everything was covered.

Jordan was up first and read two poems, “Where It’s Warm,” and “The Lookout at Airport Mesa.”

Next, Emma read “Resurrection,” a short story about two friends on an Indian reservation. They would often watch Peter’s uncle carve animals out of wood, or would run errands for him. One day, Peter’s uncle came up missing, but they found his wrecked car. After awhile, the two went to investigate to add closure to the uncle’s life.

Then Sunny read two poems, “Death of a Stranger,” and “Inflation,” with great descriptions, such as “Days hung like sugared frogs,” and “Five dollars for your soul.”

When Jordan read from his novel (the title he didn’t give out), he got some great laughs from the audience.

“This story is about a guy named Westin, who lives off of a trust fund in New York,” Jordan began. “But he’s not attracted to his wife anymore.”

He went on to describe how Westin ran around Central Park, using people as mile markers. And he had the paranoid idea that everyone was following him, so he ran.

Jordan read from his novel about a guy who believed pigeons were following him

“What’s more, the fucking pigeon was following him,” Jordan said. “It was if he was running from nature itself.”

The pigeon ended up attacking Westin in the leg, and a woman in an orange suit defended it. “They are gentle things you know,” she said.

For her next piece, “Something,” Sunny played the piano and sang, as her mother beamed and took pictures from the front row.

“I know how to write poetry,” Khalid said later. “But I sure as hell can’t write songs like that! Amazing!”

Sunny read three more poems, “Adoption,” “Origin of Snow,” and “Sonnet,” which was based on Sir Thomas Wyatt’s poem, “I Find No Peace, and All My War is Done.”

Then Emma read an excerpt from her novel about a married man attracted to a flower shop girl.

“Enough,” a haunting love song from Sunny’s “Fire and Brimstone” musical, was performed by Joey and Ruby, two musical theater majors. They sang without props right in front of the podium. Just goes to show you that you don’t need a lot when the content is good.

After Jordan recited his poem,” Melanesian Mythology,” he jumped right into an unusual good-bye.

“I’m leaving for NYU in the fall and Emma is going to USC, but we’ve never been together onstage at the same time,” Jordan said. “So I’d like to invite her up here to sing her favorite song, “Your Love.”

Sunny read her poetry and sang a song that she wrote

The two sang a duet, danced and camped it up for the audience. The music by The Outfield was prerecorded. There they were, two writers singing and dancing a farewell song that was sentimental, but not very good. But it didn’t matter because the audience, which was made up of friends, family members and faculty, loved it.

Then Sunny joined them onstage and they gave their final bow. They hugged each other like good friends, and then everyone was invited outside for ice cream.

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