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John Matthias’s New Selected Poems brings together both short and longer poems from eight previous books. It ranges from early lyrics written in America during the 1960s to meditative and epistolary poems deriving from his years spent in England during the 70s and 80s, formal experiments engaging issues of poetics, and sequences like Northern Summer, Facts from an Apocryphal Midwest, A Compostela Diptych, and Cuttings. Robert Duncan called his early poetry “the work of a Goliard – one of those wandering souls out of a Dark Age in our own time,” and Guy Davenport has said that his recent work makes him “one of the leading poets in the USA.” The present volume, together with Working Progress, Working Title, published by Salt in 2002, makes almost all of his major work available in Britain for the first time in many years.
‘Over thirty years [Matthias] has built up a splendidly wrought mosaic of western culture and history shot through with personal inquiry and discovery. It’s a fascinating, unfinished journey, a secular but passionate pilgrimage.’ —Stand Magazine
‘I am not suggesting that Matthias is some latter-day Wallace Stevens (‘Thou art not August unless I make thee so’). But what this wonderful selection brings home to its readers is both the power and the provisional nature of our imaginings.’ —Alex Davis, PN Review
‘Matthias consistently works to show us how the apparently distant is not only close to us, but constitutive of who we are. in Mattthias’ poems we go out into the world of remote facts and unknown names only to find in the end that these remote things have immediate relevance to us, that we have always been who we are because of them, but hadn’t known it.’ —Robert Archambeau, Pleiades