Thursday, April 16, 2009
MAINLINE TO THE HEART AND OTHER POEMS
By Clive Matson
Published by Regent Press
92 pages/ paperback
REVIEW BY RICHARD WILHELM
MAINLINE TO THE HEART AND OTHER POEMS is a new edition of early poems published by Diane di Prima’s “Poets Press” in 1966 plus some uncollected poems from the same era. Matson arrived on the Lower East Side in 1960 and soon was attending poetry readings where he met Allen Ginsburg, Diane di Prima, Gregory Corso, and Herbert Huncke.
While the themes of most of the poems embody a young man’s concerns, e.g., his relationship with his lady, his drug experiences, his alienation from the larger society, the language is intense and beautifully crafted, the work of a seasoned writer. And yet Matson maintains a rawness, a nakedness, to the imagery as his speaker wanders the New York streets in search of transcendence come how it may, from daydreaming through a dirt-caked window, an orgasm or the rush of junk. Along with transcendence comes a lot of hassle and frustration. The first poem begins:
Fuck you, Huncke.
hung up for junk, waiting
alone in a dark room candles
you lit burn down in.
(Teardrop in My Eye)
Matson is always honest. His poems express what he saw and how he felt without hedging or apologizing. In “Snow White” he says:
I love drugs:
cocaine and heroin today for speed and warmth,
grass for spice.
Now I dig myself.
& forget myself.
Go out for air and
the desert street is white with
from the sun.
Matson has long ago left the drug life behind and has gone on to earn an MFA in Poetry at Columbia University. He currently resides in Oakland, CA and has lead poetry workshops and taught in the classroom . Prior to reading these poems, this reviewer was unfamiliar with Matson’s work but MAINLINE TO THE HEART makes one want to know what he’s writing these days and how he has matured as a poet. His seventh book, SQUISH BOOTS (2002), was placed in John Wieners’ coffin. (Wiener’s had written the introduction to the original edition.) Clive Matson is a poet who knows the value of his vision and one surmises he has not let it dissipate. In SICKBED II, he writes:
The Ides of March comes
looking like the first of spring.
The first day
I go out into a beautiful world.. Of color&
where each tree & building & person
It is a vision that will not last.
But I’ll damn well
bring it back someday.
The stars allow it.