There seems to be a sort of resurgence in the world of poetry recently. Something I personally love, especially because it means the exposure of young people to more literary works in that genre. I’ve always adored this form of storytelling that can make hearts weightless and tears heavier all wrapped into just a few paragraphs sometimes.
We (virtually) sat down with poet Matthew Daddona. Matthew recently released his debut poetry collection, House of Sound, which you can find here!
We talk about how he believes poetry should be displayed to people in schools, how he does with stomaching his own words and much more!
AF: Starting from the beginning did you always know you wanted to work with poetry, or literature in general?
Matthew Daddona: The short answer is yes. The longer, more meandering answer, is I didn’t know in what capacity. At one point, I wanted to be an investigative journalist; and then I wanted to pursue a Master’s degree and teach; and it wasn’t until I got an internship at Viking, an imprint of Penguin Books (now Penguin Random House) that I discovered book publishing and editing as a viable career. This has allowed me to also write. Though finding the time to do so is a challenge. It’s a hefty balance of working with others’ words and then finding the stamina to stomach my own.
AF: If so, did you ever feel a little anxious pursuing a career that isn’t the most traditional or did the love of it overshadow that?
Matthew Daddona: I think literature is perhaps the most traditional career, is it not? The printing press was invented in the fifteenth century, way before, say, Wall Street or Silicon Valley was invented. And maybe books are like the original version of music videos or movies or documentaries? You could look at it that way, I guess. What’s not traditional is the amount of self-consciousness and impostering you feel as a writer and editor.
AF: Was there any key people in your life growing up that helped bring you pursuing this career or was this always something that was just inside you?
Matthew Daddona: Absolutely, and I trust that that list is still growing. My parents, for one. They never scoffed at the idea of their son wanting to go into the literary arts. I treasure their cheerfulness and support. There’s my English teachers throughout high school and some notable ones in college, who challenged my way of thinking. That’s important–they never taught me how to write as they did teach me how to see. As an editor, I had the fortune of having the best first boss someone can work for; he and I are still very close and I can’t thank him enough for what he taught me.
AF: It seems that there has been a resurgence of poetry in the last two years, but that’s just an outsiders perspective, is it true from someone who works in the industry?
Matthew Daddona: There has been a surge in celebrity poetry and Insta-poetry, for sure, which has shifted the lens on poetry in the mainstream. Even Lili Reinhart has a collection out! But I think there are also a number of small and indie presses that are putting out admirable, vibrant collections. There is also more space for queer and BIPOC writers, and thank goodness for that. There are only so many collections by white MFA students I can read (and hey, I’m well aware of my own whiteness and perspective). I just mean to say that, as readers and writers, it’s incumbent upon us to read as many perspectives as we can.
AF: In your own opinion what would you say is the most significant thing or moment you’ve written for or are your writings simply for you and if it resonates with someone else or gets published that’s just a bonus?
Matthew Daddona: Probably the release of my poetry collection. Many of those poems were written as far back as ten years ago, so to see them in print is–to state the cliche–a bit surreal. I am in the midst of sending my novel out to agents, so I’m hoping that that potential publication will outshine the publication of my poetry. But even seeing my journalism in print always gives me a lift; it’s like hearing a “thank you” for all the work you’ve done to make the writing happen.
AF: Do you believe that schools should focus on poetry more than they do?
Matthew Daddona: I believe they should focus on more contemporary poetry perhaps. As much as I like Whitman, reading him may not make as much sense to a black girl from Georgia as it would a white boy from the north shore of Long Island, for example. I think teachers spend so much time teaching poetry form and not enough on the actual emotions–how does it make you feel? should be the question, not what is the rhyme scheme the poet is employing?
AF: When writing poetry what would you say is your favorite part of the process?
Matthew Daddona: Oh boy, all of it! The images that sprout in my head or a hook of a line that I can’t get out or the repetition of lines in my mind before I get them onto the page, and of course the writing and rewriting. Walter Benjamin said, “The work is the death mask of conception,” and maybe that’s true. But the work is the conception and the conception is the work; one cannot happen without the other.
AF: Being a senior editor at Harper Collins, does reading other peoples work inspire you? Or are the two things separated because the work she read may not at all be related to what you would do personally?
Matthew Daddona: The two things are siloed; they have to be. Otherwise, I’d be stifled–in the best way possible–by the miraculous creativity of my authors, all of whom are so impressive and accomplished. The fact that I edit only nonfiction helps keep me keep my two worlds separate, but I also do work making the two feel very distinct. When I leave HarperCollins, I put on my other construction hat, and vice versa. So, while I’m inspired by my authors I’m not particularly inspired by their works. I can’t be. I like them too much!
AF: Final question. Who would you say is your favorite poet? And do you have a young poet that wish was on more people’s radar?
Matthew Daddona: My favorite? Robert Bly, maybe because he just feels so simple. And I never get sick of reading him. As far as younger poets are concerned, everyone should read Jake Skeets’ Eyes Bottle Dark With a Mouthful of Flowers. It’s brutal and unrelentless and unforgiving.