The Michigan Daily Wednesday, October 7, 1992 Page 5
Matthews redeems the ordinary
by William N. Matthews
"I think the closest thing to free-
dom that one experiences is, for a
writer - writing, for a dancer -
dancing, for a painter - painting."
In a recent telephone interview from
his home in New York, poet William
Matthews, author of ten hooks of
poetry and a collection of essays,
spoke of the joys and pleasures of
writing poetry. "(Writing) offers
some of the pleasures that a freshly
snowed upon field that nobody else
has traveled does to a person who
likes to walk. Ile can imagine Imak-
ing footprints across it," he said.
According to Matthews, one of
the most important jobs of the poet
is that of redeeming the ordinary.
Matthews' poetry, like much poetry
throughout literary history, explores
not only the extraordinary events,
incidents, and observations that lead
to truth and understanding, but also
the "ordinary" objects and incidents
of everyday life that can just as
surely spawn catharsis and epiphany.
Matthews goes as far as to
demonstrate the extraordinary in the
ordinary, as well as the ordinary in
the extraordinary. One of his poems.
"39,000 Feet," manipulates and in-
terprets the now common experience
of airplane flight and reveals the ex-
traordinary nature of leaving the
earth and flying through space.
Matthews awakens the reader's
perceptions by elucidating an expe-
rience that is often considered corn-
pulsory, routine, and mundane.
"There's a core of our lives which is
very ordinary and it consists of
breaking open a freshly baked loaf
of bread," Matthews said. "What can
do easily become ordinary, in the
sense of ordinary that moves toward
dull, needs to be redeemed and to be
remade wonderful. One part of this
is travel, and for twentieth century
people that includes some slightly
fantastic notion of travel even off the
planet, and the other part is staying
at. home and realizing that it's quite
amazing there, too.
"The making of poetry, the actual
work of composing, is exhilarating
and sensuous," Matthews continued.
"There are certain kind of artists
who like to put on a gloomy mask
and talk about the agony and terrible
solitude of writing, but the truth is
that writing, at least when you're
writing well, is an enormous plea-
sure, and that partly the pleasure
consists in skillfully handling painful
material. So yes, there's pain, but it
needs to put into context with the
pleasures and joys of making, which
I think are considerable."
In his poem "Peter Quince at the
poems like "Sentimettal," "Meticu-
lous," "Restless," and "Mood Indi-
go" are reminiscent of the emotively
titled "Solitude" by Duke Ellington,
as well as Eric Dolphy's "Serene,"
J.J. Johnson's "Lament," and Dodo
Mannarosa's "Mellow Mood."
He also writes in "The Blues": "I
could ... listen / to J.J. Johnson and
Stan Getz braid / variation of 'My
Funny Valentine,' and feel there in
the room with me the force and
weight of what I could not say."
Poetry and music, as Stevens sug-
'The making of poetry, the actual work of
composing, is exhilarating and sensuous.'
- William Matthews
as a career or profession like any
other. His job is to exercise aware-
ness towards the world around him,
to interpret thought and beauty and
give them meaning, and to express
himself tangibly and cogently within
his own poetic guidelines. "I think
I'm just an ordinary biped except
when I'm at the desk. What are
there, four hundred guys playing in
the NBA? Let's take the guy who's
number two hundred in skill, right in
the middle of the pack. I mean he's a
normal biped until he gets out on the
floor ... I'm a fellow biped until I go
to the desk and then I turn my back
on the rest of the world and write as
well as I can."
WILLIAM MA7'HIEWSi will be read-
ing fron his work Thursday, 5:00
p.m., at Rackham Amphiiheater.
Editor's note: the author of this
article and the visiting poet are not
one and the same, and in fact bear
no relation to one another or any
physical resemblance to one other
(other than the standard /utnan ap-
pendages and limbs)
One of the Indians whom Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca meets in Mexico.
Dances c-wit ed
by Michael Thompson
Get ready to sit back and watch
carnage, suffering, magic, great
landscapes and even self discov-
ery. Yes, it's "Cabeza de Vaca," a
film that tries to do everything and
falls just a little too short.
"Cabeza de Vaca" begins with
Spanish explorer Alvar Nunez
Cabeza de Vaca (.1 uan Diego)
realizing that he has been in
Mexico for eight years. Then the
film flashes back to when the
explorer lands on the coast of
Mexico. le has already lost most
Cabeza de Vaca
Directed by Nicolas Echevarria;
written by Guilermo Sheridan and
Nicholas Echevarria; with .uan Diego
and Daniel Gimenez
of his men in a shipwreck that has
left them sailing onl rafts. The next
dlay the remaining men are; either
killed or captured by a tribe of
Alvar becomes a slave for an
Indian Shaman who sets him free
when Alvar shows that he has
learned the Indian's ways of heal-
ing. Alvar begins a quest across
Mexico. le heals people and gains
many Indian allies, and is ulti-
mately forced to choose between
the Spanish and the Indians.
Director Nicolas Echevarria
manages to score a lot of points in
his first film, making the audience
really wonder who the savages
are. The Indians kill and enslave
the Spanish at the beginning of the
film, but by the end, the Spanish
Clavier," 20th century poet Wallace
Stevens proposed that poetry was
like music - emotion in a very es-
sential and elemental form. Thus to
read poetry and or listen to music is
a way of awakening feelings, like
adding water to powdered milk, or
applying a lifetime of experiences to
one universal emotion. Much of
Matthews' work is analogous to mu-
sic, specifically jazz and blues.
"Sometimes the assumption is
that you have something to say and
then you write it down and my expe-
rience is that you actually find out
what it is by writing it down,"
Matthews explained. "I mnig ht offer
some parallel with say improvisation
in jazz at this point which is that you
figure out what you're going to play
by playing it."
In his poem "The Blues," Mat-
thews describes the improvisational
and spiritual aspects of jazz - "I
had pieces to learn by heart, but at
twelve / you think the heart and
memory are different. / ... Although
I knew the way music can fill a
room, / even with loneliness, which
is of course a kind / of company."
Many of his poems use jazz both
in title and format. Such titles as "It
Don't Mean a Thing If' It Ain't Got
That Swing" and "The Blues" reflect
a genuine influence of jazz. Other
gested, are methods by which emo-
tions are boiled down to rich, almost
intangibly fleeting sensations. Mat-
thews spoke of the elusive human
truths that are the goals of art. "One
part of poetry wants to say things
that have never been quite captured
in language before," he said.
William Matthews regards poetry
are doing the same thing to the
Indians. One of the Spanish ex-
plorers even boasts of cannibalism
of his fellow shipmates, while
none of the Indians ever eat any of
the explorers. The film doesn't
have specific good guys or bad
guys like "Dances with Wolves",
instead, it has characters who sur-
vive any way they can. Some
ways are brutal, while other ways
The most bizarre scenes occur
when magic is used - or at least
what seems to be magic. A dead
person comes back to life or a tree
suddenly bursts into flames. There
is no solid answer for why any of
this occurs. Lchevarria does a
good job at creating a mysterious
quality to the Indians; unfortu-
nately, it remains a mystery.
The film succeeds in creating a
totally foreign place, but this is
also where its biggest fault lies.
Only the Spanish dialogue is subti-
tled; the Indian language is not. At
the beginning, when there are no
subtitles, we can relate to Alvar as
an outsider; when he becomes part
of the culture, however, we don't
know what the hell's going on.
Perhaps Echevarria wants his
audience to only have a glimpse of
what was destroyed. But in giving
us only a glimpse we can hardly
care about anyone on the screen
other than Alvar. Echevarria gives
a us a wonderful look into a lost
world. In the end, however, it's
just a look that leaves us saying,
"Huh?" instead of "Wow."
CABEZA DE VACA is playing (it
the Michigan Theater.
John, thy art
Not only can you lucky stiffs
attend an ArtVideo at noon, today
("Louise Nevelson in Progress")
but tomorrow, at noon in the
Audio-Visual room of the Museum
of Art, Diane Kirkpatrick will, live
and in person, give an ArtTalk
titled "From the Real to the
Surreal; The Found Object in 20th-
century Art." It's free, just drop in.
We can only hope that the whole
Marcel Duchamp urinal fiasco gets
explained. (We mean, it really
pissed us off.)
If it ain't baroque ..
She was a hit in 1991's May
Festival, and she's back to play
Beethoven's Sonata No. 9 in A
Major "Kreutzer." Midori, our
j'j'J [iI'~'ji ~ ii ii ~ ;1 ~'~'1 :1 ~
favorite 21-year-old violinist,
returns to Hill Auditorium
tomorrow night at 8 p.m. She'll
also grace us with Elgar's Sonata
in E minor, as well as works by
Debussy and Sarasate. Tickets are
$18 to $45, but rush tickets will be
available Thursday at the Union.
Call 764-2538 for info.
Woody, could he?
Well, we can't help ourselves,
it's a Woody Allen flick, and we
think-- nay insist - that you go.
It's "Stardust Memories," it's at
the Michigan Theater, and it's at
9:30 p.m. Even though it's
Woody's attack on his fans, we
can't help but love it. Ignore the
hype - lie's still a film maker you
oughtn't sneeze at.
The University Activities Center is creating new positions..
V.P. of MULTICULTURAL
* Head a programming board
charged with creating unique
activities for our multicultural
- Direct North Campus programming
- Make N.C. an exciting place to be!
Pick up applications at UAC, 2105 Michigan Union
The CDs Listed Surrounding This Ad Are Just $9.99 Each!
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