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Matthew Dickman

Matthew Dickman writes fearless poems that aren't afraid to make themselves vulnerable. He oscillates between referencing popular culture and highlighting the importance of immediate experience & human contact.


"At the center of Mayakovsky’s Revolver is the suicide of Matthew Dickman’s older brother. “Known for poems of universality of feeling, expressive lyricism of reflection, and heartrending allure.”

– Major Jackson

"[A]t its most intrinsic level, Mayakovsky’s Revolver examines not just the contours, angles of grief, but how grief contours and molds us."

– Brachah Goykadosh



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Mayakovsky's Revolver

An Interview with Matthew Dickman


MATTHEW SHERLING: What is your favorite meal & why?

MATTHEW DICKMAN: One of my favorite meals is a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. My twin brother, Michael Dickman, and fellow poet Carl Adamshick used to order that classic at a wonderful bar in Portland called Cassidy's when Carl worked downtown . . . it is a perfect meal!

MS: What is currently your favorite album?

MATTHEW DICKMAN: My favorite album right now is 10,000 Maniacs "In My Tribe" (don't judge me!).

MS: If you could wrap up your worldview in one sentence, what would it be?

MATTHEW DICKMAN: Worldview (at the moment) = "Lispector"

MS: How long have you been writing poetry and what draws you toward it?

MATTHEW DICKMAN: I have been writing poetry since High School. That's about twenty years. One of the things that draws me to poetry is that through poetry (through art) I better understand myself, I better understand the world I live in. It's also fucking awesome making something out of nothing! When we sit down (or stand up!) with a pen and a blank page it's one of the only moments when we are absolutely free.

MS: That's a powerful way to look at the practice of art. Can you describe your process when constructing a poem? How much editing / spontaneity is involved?

MATTHEW DICKMAN: Years ago, when writing poems, I would have complete control over the moment of a first draft. That is to say I would think of something to write about, do some research, and then write. Now it's a more reckless experience. I sit down and begin to write with, often, no idea of what will be written. I'm moved to make something. I'm in love or sad or hopeful or have had too much coffee and so I want to let it out. What happens feels up to the moment. After that I redraft, I share it with friends and listen to what they have to say. Some poems go through numerous drafts. Others only one or two. The spontaneity is in deciding to build a boat. The editing is making sure the boat will actually sail. Though sinking sometimes feels good too!

Are there any poets who particularly inspire(d) you now or when you first got into the craft?


Andre Breton

Dorianne Laux

Joseph Millar

Marie Howe

Yusef Komunyakaa

Dorothea Lasky

Pedro Mir

Diane Wakoski

Eileen Miles

Frank O'Hara

Bob Kaufman

Anthony McCann

Dunya Mikhail (sp?)

...to name only a couple that comes to mind today while the sun falls and night walks into Portland, Oregon...

MS: Cool! Your work seems to be considerably accessible. Is this something you shoot for? also, what is it that draws you to more 'surrealist' writers Breton and Haufman?

MATTHEW DICKMAN: I think the only thing I shoot for when writing is something that engages me. Of course it might not engage anyone else! Also, I believe all art is accessible, expecially if you accept a certain amount of mystery in your life...Writers like Breton and Kaufman remind me that the landscape of poetry is not the landscape of earth with fences and continents but outer space... way outer space!

MS: Can you say a bit more about your use of 'landscape'? Also, how do you feel about 'Objectivist' or 'Imagist' poets who place heightened emphasis on the 'thing itself' // the "real"?

MATTHEW DICKMAN: Landscapes, for millions of years, have been both inner and outer (like belly buttons!) and our inner-landscapes affect the outer-landscapes we walk around on--as does our physical environment affect our emotional environment. Sometimes I can't tell the two apart. The "thing itself" is never, of course, actually the "thing itself" once it's placed into a poem or another piece of art. It has been translated, managed, slightly tuned to another frequency. A choice has been made by an entity outside of the "thing" or the "real" object removing that object from it's (let's say) first truth and placing it in another truth... the truth of the meaning-making artist using it or applying it in some way or another to her work.

MS: Can you tell us about your current project?

MATTHEW DICKMAN: I have a new book out this month, Mayakovsky's Revolver, and am working on a chapbook with the poet Julia Cohen. The poems in the chapbook came out of seven days of writing together in Brooklyn. The writing based on questions we asked each other and random words.

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