Name: Matt Broaddus
Hometown: Palmyra, Virginia
Current city: I just moved from Blacksburg, Virginia to Lakewood, Colorado
Occupation: Library Circulation Specialist
What does poetry mean to you?
Poetry means the possibility of breaking out of the conventional speech patterns that structure reality. Poetry, to me, is a means of using language to challenge the old, tired routine of traditional communication and move to a place where language is building new worlds and charting new ways of thinking. I love poetry because it’s the form that best understands language’s power as a material force. It can transform the way we see and hear and feel connected to one another.
What is your favorite poem?
The Taxi by Russell Edson
Why do you like this poem?
I love this poem because it is so full of wonder. The prose poem form gives it this propulsive power to move the reader through the poem in a rush of amazement. Each line that follows compounds the surprise and wonder of the line that preceded it. The images in the poem--the taxi crashing through the third story wall, the canaries assembling and reassembling into the shape of the driver--push on the limitations of the possible and move beyond those limits. The line that really makes me fall in love with the poem is toward the end when it seems as though this incredible event is going to vanish without a trace. But then the speaker says, “But I cannot stop what is happening [...]” I feel an enormous sense of recognition in this line; we cannot help imagining the things that will amaze us, that it’s ok to obsess and marvel over those things, that it’s good to let that feeling of wonder and amazement into your life.
by Russell Edson
One night in the dark I phone for a taxi. Immediately a taxi crashes through the wall; never mind that my room is on the third floor, or that the yellow driver is really a cluster of canaries arranged in the shape of a driver, who flutters apart, streaming from the windows of the taxi in yellow fountains...
Realizing that I am in the midst of something splendid I reach for the phone and cancel the taxi: All the canaries flow back into the taxi and assemble themselves into a cluster shaped like a man. The taxi backs through the wall, and the wall repairs...
But I cannot stop what is happening, I am already reaching for the phone to call a taxi, which is already beginning to crash through the wall with its yellow driver already beginning to flutter apart…
The above conversation arose from my wife's idea to do an interview. My wife, the poet Kodi Saylor, has always wanted to do an interview where the two of us talk about poetry, what it means to us, and how we think about poetry as writers and readers. We both thought up questions that we wanted to ask each other about poetry, some general, some more specific. Verse of April, with its focus on paying homage to poetry, presented us with a great opportunity to speak about the poets we love like Denise Duhamel, Nathaniel Mackey, Tomaž Šalamun, Terrance Hayes, and others. These poets allowed us to talk about musicality, playfulness, politics, and humor. Russell Edson came up toward the end of our conversation. His poem "The Taxi" helped us to speak a little about prose poetry and how great poems surprise us. My wife and I are big fans of the prose poem and hybrid form in general. In the interview, we talked to each other about the "materials" that we use to create poetry, and I think that's where you can start to see how different genres and different art forms and cultural entities creep into our minds and get us wanting to engage creatively with what we're encountering day to day. But because reading and listening to poetry especially has been so influential to our interest in writing poetry, we also wanted to talk about the connection between reading poetry and writing poetry. In some ways, I think the act of writing is always a response. As a writer, you're always putting your voice out there into a sea of other voices who have come before you or who are currently speaking. In the process, you're also picking up little bits of this cultural brain, this cultural soup that you're in and that's informing what comes out of you, what emerges. You're also maybe putting something out there, an idea, that someone in the future may pick up, interrogate, build on, or depart from. I love that about poetry especially because it's a medium that's so tied to language itself in a way no other medium is. The idea to have a conversation, as we've done here, kind of mirrors what we love about poetry, which is how poets engage in such unique ways in the act of putting words into verse.
Matt Broaddus is a Cave Canem fellow and author of a chapbook, Space Station (Letter [r] Press, 2018). His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Fence, Black Warrior Review, Sundog Lit, and Foundry. He’s currently working on his first novel.