Matthew Zapruder

Winner of the William Carlos Williams Award in 2007


By Canada I have always been fascinated.
All that snow and acquiescing.
All that emptiness, all those butterflies
marshalled into an army of peace.
Moving north away from me
Canada has no border, away
like the state its northern border
withers into the skydome. In a world
full of mistrust and self-medication
I have always hated Canada.
It makes me feel like I'm shouting
at a child for letting a handful
of pine needles run through his fist.
Canada gets along with everyone
while I hang, a dark cloud
above the schoolyard. I know
we need war, all the skirmishes
to keep our borders where
we have placed them, all
the migration, all the difference.
Just like Canada the Dalai Lama
is now in Canada, and everyone
is fascinated. When they come
to visit me, no one ever leaves me
saying, the most touching thing
about him is he's so human.
Or, I was really glad to hear
so many positive ideas regardless
of the consequences expressed.
Or I could drink a case of you.
No one has ever pedaled
every inch of thousands of roads
through me to raise awareness
for my struggle for autonomy.
I have pity but no respect for others,
which is not compassion, just ordinary
love based on attitudes towards myself.
I wonder how long I can endure.
In Canada the leaves are falling.
When they do each one rustles
maybe to the white tailed deer
of sadness, and it's clear
that whole country does not exist
to make me feel crappy
like a candelabra hanging
above the prison world,
condemned to freely glow.


Tony Hoagland on Matthew Zapruder

The poetry of William Carlos Williams is only venerable today because it has stayed youthful for so long. I think he would have approved of Matthew Zapruder's dreamy but stubbornly inquisitive urban psalms, which use the poem as an antennae for investigating the world, and as an event of pleasure in itself. Both deft and tentative, clever but not smug, Zapruder's poems stretch their actively creative syntax down the page, testing the ground as they go.

   Always I am
into my desk drawer
  cabinet of wanders
              wandering to rediscover
                     it's snowing.
              Through it I touch
                     a nail someone gave me
                                         to hang a great task on,
                             say describe
                                a painting
                     you have never not walked in,
                               its tiny
                                                      glaciers drifting
                                      down to the floor...
                                                             from "The Book of Oxygen"

The amiable voice of story-telling presides here, but the stories are ambient experiments in knowing, and they dowse with humility and playfulness. Like Williams, Zapruder radiates an un-modern optimism, which is to say he is sincere when he claims the problematical goods of living. In the drifting landscapes of The Pajamaist one finds a vitality of method and a convincing underlying spiritual seriousness which promises good things to come.

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