Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Poetry Month-Cameo Diner by Matt Miller

Another selection from Loom Press for Poetry Month—Cameo Diner by Matt Miller—beautifully designed by Victoria Dalis and illustrated with photographs by Meghan Moore.

Piscatory Diner from Cameo Diner:

I’m squeezed behind Formica and chrome, sitting in a diner booth
waiting for my steak and eggs, spitting tobacco into an empty Coke can,

and scratching some words on a paper napkin,
just hoping to hook a rhythm on stale bait while

outside in the millbrick midnight, the canals of the Merrimack
run red in the blood glow of brake lights.

Casting my lines across these city veins where carp slip in the muck
among blown tires, immigrant bones, and the used-up breath of

all of us bottom-feeding for meaning, I try
to fishplate this downtown mise en scène

of a hooker named Flowers sucking glass dick in an alley,
then stiletto-stepping through the parking lot

where a couple stumbles toward their car from the Worthen bar,
their tongues tangled as they lean against a burnt-out street light

while two kids hooded in gang rags slide like cobras
into the diner, smoking butts and taking stools in the corner

near Jimmy Sullivan, the old bantam weight whose sauced body
bobs and weaves over a half-eaten turkey sandwich

served by a waitress walking under nicotine halos
who smiles through too much makeup at me going hungry

as a hairnetted cook throws baking soda on a grease fire
that shuts down the grill for the night.

Here is an excerpt from an interview with Matt Miller by Jia Oak Baker in drafthorse: lit journal of work and no work:

In Cameo Diner, there’s this kind of musculature to your diction—the use of nouns as verbs.  It does a lot of heavy lifting throughout the poems.  Can you talk about your writing process as a whole and specifically to your choices in diction? 

I think a lot of that comes from the influence of Lowell as well.  Just the way people use language. And then picking up on the vernacular and just listening to the rhythms of the language.  I’ve probably heard someone tell a story in such a way and thought, “Wow.  They just verbed that noun.” It’s fun to do because sometimes there’s no verb that means the same—I want to say “the helicopters mosquito” because that’s what they’re like. I don’t want to slow down and go, “The helicopters were like mosquitoes.” It’s just too slow. I want to get there quicker with a little more punch. I want to combine the noun and the verb to get to the metaphor or simile quicker. I’m a big fan of Shakespeare--he was known to do that.  And also being from Lowell . . . Kerouac. I ended up reading a lot of Kerouac, and he did a lot of this “I’m-not-going-to-use-the-language-exactly-how-it’s-traditionally-done” stuff. I think he had a big influence on some of the rhythms and musculature in my writing. I’m not saying I write like Kerouac, but I think there’s a little of that same “driving forward” that he did.

Read the complete drafthorse interview

4 of Matt's poems at drafthorse (text and video of reading)

Cameo Diner at Loom Press

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