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Matthew Shenoda

Matthew Shenoda received a BA from Oregon State University in 1999 and an MFA from the University of Arizona in 2001.

He is the author of three poetry collections: Tahrir Suite: Poems (TriQuarterly Books, 2014), winner of an Arab American Book Award; Seasons of Lotus, Seasons of Bone (BOA Editions, 2009); and Somewhere Else (Coffee House Press, 2005), which received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. With Kwame Dawes, he also coedited Bearden’s Odyssey: Poets Respond to the Art of Romare Bearden (TriQuarterly Books, 2017).

Of Seasons of Lotus, Seasons of Bone, Rigoberto González writes, “No poet exercises the healing powers of poetry like Shenoda, whose verse reads like prayer, incantation—the soothing words of hope to mend a damaged world.”

Shenoda is a founding editor of the African Poetry Book Fund, and was the Poem-a-Day Guest Editor in May 2018. He is vice president of social equity and inclusion and professor of literary arts and studies at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). He lives in Rhode Island.


Tahrir Suite: Poems (TriQuarterly Books, 2014)
Seasons of Lotus, Seasons of Bone (BOA Editions, 2009)
Somewhere Else (Coffee House Press, 2005)

By This Poet


Somewhere Else

It is here on this ridge 
exposed to the orange dusk 
of mountain autumn 
that the story begins. 

Buck wood for the stove 
feel the heat of shoulder to tendon 
greet the mule deer 
and water the garden again. 

In rhythm, with song 
when the ax begins to blend with wind
carry on to warmer days 
on the river’s open banks 
where the fervor of healing is found in water. 
Flow from one origin to another--
there is never a place where we cannot begin 
where the current is ancient, the wind is young 
teaching each other like the ax and the wood. 

Carve a place for dignity 
plant a seed and pray for rain 
for sun 
for understanding outside your self. 

There will come a day when they say: 
who do you think you are 
and another day will come 
for you to tell. 

On that day the story will appear 
but do not tell of yourself 

tell the story of the staff that blossomed in the desert
or the one about your enemy’s greatest victory

tell the story of somewhere else

Donkey Carts and Desolation

Dilapidated clapboard shacks 
piles of bricks in the sand 
scratching at the surface of cohesion

Ingenuity is the notion of building
On a foundation made from loss

Out in these arid expanses
where the Red Sea meets the sand
people dream of progress
made from humility 
and the laughter of others
multi-colored dross scatter across the earth 
like foreign shrubbery

We converse in codes of motion
Language signaling daily headway

Advice for the long haul.