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Matthew Zapruder

Matthew Zapruder was born in 1967 in Washington, D.C. He received a BA from Amherst College, an MA from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MFA in poetry from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Zapruder’s first book, American Linden, was published by Tupelo Press in 2002 after winning the Tupelo Press Editors’ Prize. He is also the author of Why Poetry (Ecco/Harper Collins, 2017), a book of prose about poetry, as well as the poetry collections Sun Bear (Copper Canyon Press, 2014), The Pajamaist (Copper Canyon Press, 2006), and Come On All You Ghosts (Copper Canyon Press, 2010). His honors include the May Sarton poetry award from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

About Zapruder’s poems, Tony Hoagland has said, "Zapruder has not just a deft manner, but an inwardness which is sturdy and generous, a little reminiscent of the James Wright of quite a different era."

With Joshua Beckman, Zapruder coedits Wave Books. He lives in Oakland, California, and teaches at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga.

Matthew Zapruder
Photo credit: B. A. Van Sise

By This Poet

8

Poem for Wisconsin

In Milwaukee it is snowing

on the golden statue 

of the 1970s television star

whose television house

was in Milwaukee 

and also on the Comet Cafe

and on the white museum 

the famous Spanish architect 

built with a glass 

elevator through it

and a room with a button

that when you press it

makes two wings

on the sides of the building 

more quickly than you might 

imagine mechanically 

rise like a clumsy

thoughtful bird 

thinking now

I am at last ready 

over the lake

that has many moods

to fly but it will not

and people ask

who are we who see 

so much evil and try 

to stop it and fail 

and know we are no longer 

for no reason worrying 

the terrible governors 

are evil or maybe 

just mistaken and nothing 

can stop them not even 

the workers who keep 

working even when 

it snows on their heads

and on the bridge 

that keeps our cars 

above the water 

for an hour 

in northern California 

today it snowed 

and something

happened people 

turned their beautiful 

sparkling angry faces up

Poem for Jack Spicer

It's the start of baseball season,
and I am thinking again 
as I do every year 
in early April now 
that I live in California 
where afternoon is a blue 
span to languidly cross 
of those long ones 
you used to sort of sleep 
through getting drunk 
on many beers, lying 
next to your radio 
on a little square of grass 
in the sun, listening 
half to the game and half 
to the Pacific water gently 
slapping the concrete 
barrier of the man-made cove.
I have heard it and it sounds 
like conversations among 
not there people I can't 
quite hear. But you could. 
And later you would try 
to remember what they said 
and transcribe it on your 
black typewriter 
in your sad, horrible room. 
When I read your poems 
about suicide and psychoanalysis 
I feel very lucky and ashamed 
to be alive at all. Everyone 
has been talking lately 
about radiation, iodine, 
and wind, and you are in 
your grave, far from the water. 
I know I don't care about you 
at all but when I look 
at your photograph, 
your round head tilted up 
so you are staring down 
at everyone, I remember 
how much you hated your body. 
Today I will go down by the water 
where you used to sit and think
I do not hate my body 
even though I often do. 
When I die please write he tried
on whatever stone you choose.

Poem for Japan

all day staying inside

listening to a podcast

discuss how particles 

over the Pacific 

might drift 

I knew thinking 

whenever cloud

scares me 

I am not alone

my umbrella slept 

in the closet

I placed a few nouns

in beautiful cages

then let them out

touched with my mind

the lucky cat

asleep in the deli

I always scratch 

his head he slightly

raises to meet my hand

all over the remains 

contaminated shadowmen 

in blue suits that seem 

ecclesiastical now 

that science is 

a religion crawl 

the emperor 

everyone has forgotten

is speaking 

no one knows 

how to be 

loving and also 

hope the wind 

in a certain 

and not another 

direction will blow

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