Poetic Matrix Press 20th Anniversary

In times like these, art has the power to make us feel less alone

Christina Patterson – The Guardian – Saturday, November 26, 2016

“As a citizen of the world in 2016,” says DiDonato (American opera singer Joyce DiDonato) in the introduction to (her) concert programme, “at times I feel overwhelmed by the temptation to spiral down into the turmoil and pessimism that threatens to invade all corners of our lives”. But the creators of “great art”, she says, show us “both our brutal nature and our elevated humanity.” Art, she says, “unifies, transcends borders” and “is a valiant path to peace”. I don’t know if art can be a path to peace. I don’t know if it could end the war in Syria, or create jobs in the so-called rust belt of America, or fill a £122bn Brexit “black hole”. What I do know is this. When bad things happen in the world, or in our lives, that art can make us feel less alone. And I know that to create the kind of art that hits us at the deepest levels, you need to be a master of your craft. You need, you could say, to be an expert. You need to think that expertise is good.

Poetry from Katrina by Lyn Lifshin



Hurricane Katrina 10th Anniversary


he could not stop watching
the images of hurt and
crying children on TV.
Known as Grandpa Grady
the elderly man in his
River Ridge neighborhood
was sickened by the images,
was saying “ya’ll get those
children.” To calm him,
family members lied
and reassured him they
would rescue the children
he was seeing on TV.
But as the day wore on,
sounds grew quieter
and he stopped eating or
speaking. A nurse stopped
by but did not send him
to a hospital. Last Thursday
he died in a single bed
in a small room at the shelter.
“I think,” his daughter
said, he grieved him
self to death”



one woman arrived with
2 children, 6 and 2. “Soon
as I got there I saw fighting.
I saw people throwing
chairs, pull a gun out right
in front of little children.”
She saw a boy who could
not breathe, asthma or panic.
She pointed it out to one
police man she saw and the
officer checked the boy,
said there was nothing they
could do. The boy was dead.
Another officer appeared.
The others figured he would
remove the body but the
officer said it was just to
check some gun shots



almost this time of year,
the aspens crackling
the drive out from Boulder
up into the hills
Octoberly crisp.
Peanut soup in an
out of season restaurant.
The Rockies blue.
We were all at the
Denver Film Festival,
would never meet again
but that warm perfect after
noon, none of us could
have believed that



the watermarks 6 feet high,
visible on some houses.
Signs of life slowly are
returning with the trickle
of residents who’ve gotten
in to look at what is left.
It’s freaky, everything
just floated. I’m going to
spray it all someone says,
spray it down with Clorox.
“Look at my counter
tops. They were so pretty.”
“Water knocked my new
refrigerator over, my lovely
mahogany door. I spent
$13,000 this year on my back
yard. It was beautiful. Now
it’s a disaster but it’s a
fixable disaster.”



one man said, stretching
his arms and pointing to
a red t shirt, blue jeans
and a pair of slippers.
“we lost everything.”
But that’s not his
biggest worry. He has
not seen his wife, kids
or grand children since
last Saturday. He heard
they were in Baton Rouge.
One woman was nearly
hysterical Saturday
morning when friends
went to wash clothes.
“I want to go home,”
she yelped, “I can’t stay
here forever.” Volunteers
have few words of
comfort. “Reality really
hasn’t begun to sink
in for these people. They
are still in a state
of shock.”



one mother sat beside
her son, a 34 year old
paraplegic who had
been carried up eight
flights of darkened
stairs and evacuated
to the airport. Inside
the medic tent she
stroked her son’s fore
head. His arms were
curled to his chest. His
mother took a towel
from her bag of
belongings and put
it on his arms so he
wouldn’t get cold. “I am
not letting him out of
my sight” she said


Katrina by Lyn Lifshin

available from Small Press distribution (SPD) www.spdbooks.org

see more at www.poeticmatrix.com



Ariel Gore

“That kind of thinking [that writers must alleviate their guilt for leading a creative life] is based on the idea that the creative life is somehow self-indulgent. Artists and writers have to understand and live the truth that what we are doing is nourishing the world. William Carlos Williams said, “It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” You can’t eat a book, right, but books have saved my life more often than sandwiches. And they’ve saved your life… But we don’t say, oh, Maya Angelou should have silenced herself because other people have other destinies. It’s interesting, because artists are always encouraged to feel guilty about their work. Why? Why don’t we ask predatory bankers how they alleviate their guilt? ”
― Ariel Gore

James Downs

137 bullets (a lament)
shots rang out…rang out…rang out

they have them cornered and shots
started ringing out…it was as if 13
fingers resting against 13 triggers
couldn’t hold back any more and so
shots rang out…rang out…rang out
no one even knew if they were alive
or dead inside

James Downs
(Cleveland car back-fires in front of
police department, a subsequent
100 officer chase…then 13 firing on
a cornered unarmed black couple)

Walt Whitman

image“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”
― Walt Whitman

Mary Shelley

“It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things, or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me, still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world.”
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Tom Petty

Tom Petty

NPR interview with Melissa Block 8/14/14:

“Yeah, you kind of spend the whole day gearing up for it, and the night getting over it. You just want to be as wonderful as everyone thinks you are, and you know you’re not. So something takes place where you reach down and pull from so deep inside your soul that this music happens, and you all reach the place you wanted to reach together, you and the audience. Getting over that takes all night.”