In an odd turn, I had my first poem in the New York Times last week in the Tech section (random call for hammer poems, of course), and my second is today. They’ve published poems by State Poets/Poets Laureate for Thanksgiving. So Happy Thanksgiving everyone, stay safe.
In this virtual world, I’m doing more class visits via recorded videos and Zoom. It’s especially fun to have questions from students beforehand to incorporate into the presentation, like in this presentation for Creative Writing classes at Abraham Lincoln High School in Council Bluffs, Iowa:
Teacher Kourtney Abbotts sent this kind note after using the video for her classes:
What an incredible day of presentations! You have given my students a whole new perspective for writing and poetry. Thank you for your hard work to make this happen. My kids LOVED the airplane and tornado poems because of the comparisons that you make. We have been talking a lot about comparisons to create more detailed thoughts and ideas.
I appreciate your help to advance the efforts of creative writing. Your writing routine of Monday deadlines is something the students really want to add to the class. We are going to use Mondays to turn in a piece they have worked on over the week. 🙂
I’ve been part of Nebraska’s Poetry Out Loud program as a teaching artist, Finals emcee, and more for 12 years now. It’s a way to get high school students to teach poems to their classmates by memorizing and reciting them. There are prizes, including one student gets to represent the state at the National Poetry Out Loud Finals! It’s brought to us by the wonderful Nebraska Arts Council and here’s a video they made with a snazzy narrator (who you might recognize) telling more about it:
Spending a lot of time at home, I’m grateful for all those being careful out there, not just because I’m a Type 1 Diabetic but for all of us. I ran a writing prompt on guilty pleasures and 80s rock today for the Nebraska Writers Collective which is now available on their YouTube channel, so get to writing!
I have a lesson on writing odes available at Nebraska’s Teacher TV. It’s aimed at middle school students but good for all ages and only 27 minutes long:
We’re closing out National Poetry Month 2020 with a good amount of virtual events! The latest is this week’s Humanities at Home conversation put on by Humanities Nebraska:
A number of readings have, of course, been canceled this spring as we all help prevent the spread of Covid-19. So instead of reading at Western Nebraska Community College in Scottsbluff, we did it virtually with a few poems, some Q&A, and a writing prompt:
I’m honored to be the first entry in the Nebraska Arts Council’s new Studio Clips: Meet Nebraska Artists series. Catch video of me reading some of the poems I’ve been writing from quarantine as well as a writing prompt, plus some Q&A and links on the NAC page: https://www.artscouncil.nebraska.gov/opportunities/for-the-community/studioclips.html
The Kimball County Visitor Center asked me to write this poem about Nebraska’s highest point. See the video they made here:
I’m honored to be the cover story in the February issue of the Lincoln Journal Star’s L Magazine. Read all the goodness here: https://journalstar.com/entertainment/books/matt-mason-reflections-on-his-first-year-as-state-poet/article_e014e93d-b84e-5e1c-a4fe-454de69596b6.html
I have an interview up on NET Radio’s All About Books which you can listen to here:
My years at Santa Clara mean a great deal to me and to my writing, so I’m honored to have this article about me published in Santa Clara Magazine.
I took a class from a visiting Georgetown professor, Ed Ingebretsen, whose love of poetry was infectious. He showed me how to read poetry and love it.
And I had a poetry writing class with Ed Kleinschmidt where he told me, who’d written maybe a few dozen poems at that point, we would turn in 10 poems over the next 10 weeks. I didn’t think it was possible for me to write that much. I wrote probably 15 poems as I found myself searching for poems instead of waiting for them to find me. I’ve kept that weekly deadline ever since. For the past 29 years, good or bad, I’ve had to write a new poem by Monday night.
I just finished a trip to Central Nebraska and Alma High School, Cambridge High School, the Jensen Memorial Library in Minden (where this photo, courtesy the Minden Courier, is from), and two shows in Holdrege at the Tassel Performing Arts Center. Thank you, especially, to Pat Underwood at The Tassel for making it possible, and to the teachers and students I got to spend time with.
As State Poet, my goal is to bring a poetry program to every Nebraska county during my 5-year term. The map here hangs on my refrigerator and shows all 93 counties. The ones marked in pink are where I’ve been so far.
I’d love to do multiple events in counties as the real goal is to share poetry in as many communities around Nebraska as I can. My hope, too, is to involve other poets where possible. Last week in Decatur, I was happy to meet local poet Charlie Schmidt. Charlie let me share 3 of his poems to start the reading off!
So if you’re somewhere around Nebraska, I want to get to your neighborhood. Contact me so we can make it happen.
I finally feel like I’m really the Nebraska State Poet as I just did readings in western Nebraska as well as the Southeast. Thank you, Nebraska Arts Council and everyone who brought me to Scottsbluff, Harrisburg, Bushnell, and Humboldt. It’s a real treat to be able to talk poetry with folks around the state.
Being Grand Marshal at the Florence Days Parade was a pretty big thrill. Thanks go to my sister, Mele of Mason Video, for this video:
My appearance on the April 3rd podcast of the Lives Radio Show has poems and a good conversation about poetry with Stuart Chittenden:
Lives Radio Show on iTunes
Here is video of the installation ceremony at the State Capitol this morning with my introduction by Twyla Hansen, Nebraska State Poet 2013-18 (0:00-2:05), followed by remarks (2:06-7:58) and then the Reign of Terror (and other poems (7:59-the end))
Here’s an article in the Omaha World-Herald about my selection as Nebraska State Poet:
I’m excited to announce I’ve been selected as the new Nebraska State Poet.
The most profound honor for me is knowing Humanities Nebraska, the Nebraska Arts Council, Nebraska Library Commission as well as a board of people I greatly admire as voices for literacy and creativity in the state chose me as State Poet.
Though I wasn’t able to make the announcement until this evening, the selection was made official earlier in the week, and I’m proud to say that my first day as official State Poet had me hosting Albuquerque Poet Laureate Manuel González and his daughter, Sarita Sol González, who was named by Juan Felipe Herrera as “Youth Poet Laureate.” We spent yesterday at Lincoln High School and Hastings College, where Manuel and Sarita brought their poems and their vibrant presence to great audiences. (Thanks, also, to the anonymous stranger who stopped to help me change a flat tire along the interstate so I could get Manuel and Sarita safely to Hastings!)
Since moving back to my home state in 1995, it’s been my goal to create opportunities which weren’t here for writers when I was coming up. I started PoetryMenu.Com in 2000, the OM Center Poetry Slam in 2002, open mics, Morpo Press (which published chapbooks by local poets), festivals like the Great Plains Poetry Pile Up, reading series which paired experienced poets with young writers, and my work with the Nebraska Writers Collective and the Louder Than a Bomb: Great Plains Youth Poetry Festival. Through my work as State Poet, I plan to continue and expand this mission over the next five years in communities around the state.
Yes, there will be a party. Yes, there will be cake.
Thank you, Twyla M. Hansen (Nebraska State Poet 2013-2018); thank you, Sarah McKinstry-Brown; thanks Sophia and Lucia, I am grateful for your support.
I’ve worked as a teaching artist for Nebraska’s Poetry Out Loud for the past 11 years. In Poetry Out Loud, students around the country memorize poems from a list, anything from a centuries-old sonnet by Shakespeare to a Naomi Shihab Nye poem written in the past few years. I love coaching students on how to choose the poem that’s right for them and finding their own way to recite it, and I’ve certainly dreamed about having one of my own poems on the list. Today, a student from San Luis Obispo High School emailed me with questions for a school assignment as he said he was working on my poem “The Story of Ferdinand the Bull” for POL. Which I didn’t know was on the list. So, well, my day has improved significantly. And it wasn’t half bad to start with.
So what am I working on? A lot. After a few years falling behind (but still writing a poem every week), I’ve been editing and getting books of my poems together. Mainly, that’s 3 manuscripts:
1. A Story About Disneyland (and Midlife (and Churros))
3. Rock Stars [largely, this one is poems about eighties rock]
Right now, most of the work is going into the Disneyland manuscript as, well, it’s been a blast to work on. So watch for a new book, umm, at some point…
In fact, my Disneyland poems have recently appeared in Defenestration, Lowestoft Chronicle, appearing soon in Sugar House Review, and a recording of one poem on the Mousetalgia podcast, Episode 521.
Catch the Voices Creating Change podcast for a chat with me and Amanda Stevenson about poetry, the Nebraska Writers Collective, Disneyland, the works!
I’m excited to have a review of US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith’s “Wade In The Water” published by World Literature Today this week. She does some amazing things with erasure poetry and found poetry, two types of poem I don’t always know what to think of:
I have 2 poems in the latest issue of 2River View:
I am grateful to Hawai`i Pacific Review for publishing a poem of mine which was a blast to work on. I know, it looks lighthearted, but every weird phrase in it took a lot of work to get just right (and every one refers specifically to something, it’s not just random).
I got the acceptance note for the poem on Father’s Day, which was something special to me as my dad was born in Hilo, so anything Hawai`i reminds me of him, gone 27 years now. I know, it’s an odd poem to carry a message from the afterlife, but I’ll take it. So check it out and enjoy!
On a 2-week residency at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts in Nebraska City, I hit the reset button and got a TON of work done editing poems, collecting them into several manuscript piles, and sending the best poems out to magazines. In just the past couple weeks, 2 places each took a pair of poems. So check out my work at:
World Literature Today
and Tipton Poetry Journal
I’m honored to have poems in a pair of great anthologies released this spring. One celebrates 20 years of The Backwaters Press and the other celebrates 150 years of Nebraska Poetry so, yeah, it’s kind of cool.
Nebraska Poetry: A Sesquicentennial Anthology, 1867-2017
The first anthology of its scope, Nebraska Poetry encompasses 150 years of the state’s literary history, featuring 80-plus poets and more than 180 poems. This landmark collection includes poems by authors best known for their prose—like Willa Cather, Loren Eiseley, and Tillie Olsen—as well as some remarkable but relatively forgotten writers from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. Among the contemporary writers, it includes poets of Nebraska’s renowned “second renaissance” along with a rich array of younger writers who are redefining what poetry from and about the state might represent. A broadly inclusive as well as diverse anthology, Nebraska Poetry celebrates the state’s brilliant contribution not only to Great Plains literature but to the broader traditions of American letters.
Watching the Perseids: The Backwaters Press Twentieth Anniversary Anthology
Watching the Perseids: The Backwaters Press Twentieth Anniversary Anthology features poems from BWP’s authors from the past 20 years. This anthology commemorates The Backwaters Press’s 20 years as a nonprofit literary publisher located in Omaha, Nebraska. Virtually every poet published by the press in its first two decades is represented here with two new, previously unpublished poems selected specifically for this volume.
Readings and Workshops
• A Pushcart Prize (2013 edition)
• 2 Nebraska Book Awards
• Finalist for the position of Nebraska State Poet (2013)
• Served as a Cultural Envoy for the U.S. State Department in Romania in 2015, Botswana in 2014, Nepal in 2010 and Belarus in 2008 through the U.S. Department of State. All four programs worked with young poets in those countries, centering on writing and performing as well as on contemporary American poetry and the poetry slam (you can see video of the final youth poetry slam in Belarus here).
• Over 200 publications in magazines and anthologies
• Published 2 full-length collections of poetry, 2013’s The Baby That Ate Cincinnati and Things We Don’t Know We Don’t Know (The Backwaters Press, 2006), that won a Nebraska Book Award and was a Contemporary Poetry bestseller
• Run poetry programs for state universities and libraries in Bucharest, Romania; Gaborone, Botswana; Kathmandu, Nepal; Minsk, Belarus; Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa; Central Community College at their campuses in Columbus, Grand Island, and Hastings, NE; The College of Santa Fe, in Santa Fe, NM; Iowa State University; Midland Lutheran College in Fremont, NE; Mount Marty College in Yankton, SD; the University of California, Davis; the University of South Dakota; Wayne State College in Wayne, NE; and at many other colleges and universities as well as for dozens of high schools in Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri
• Presented with Pulitzer Prize winning authors Ted Kooser and Yusef Komunyakaa
• Worked with numerous libraries and arts organizations around the country, including Opera Omaha, the Joslyn Art Museum, the Anthology Reading Series in Phoenix, the Buffalo Commons Storytelling Festival, and Festival of the Arts in Columbia, Missouri.
Mason earned his MA in Creative Writing from the University of California at Davis, then, of course, moved to Omaha where he now lives with his wonderful wife Sarah and daughters Sophia and Lucia. He edits PoetryMenu.com, a listing of every Nebraska poetry event (and, yes, there are a lot, see for yourself) and founded Morpo Press which, since 1997, has published 30 chapbooks and one book by up-and-coming local writers. New Michigan Press released his chapbook Mistranslating Neruda in 2003 and Lone Willow Press put out When The Bough Breaks in 2005. He founded and, from 2002-2014, ran the Omaha Healing Arts Center Poetry Slam (on the 2nd Saturday of every month) as well as the occasional reading series. Matt has read his poetry everywhere from behind the podiums of the Nebraska Book Festival to the stages of the National Poetry Slam as well as at universities, high schools, libraries, book stores, radio shows, prisons, state fairs, art museums, bars, ice cream parlors, and coffee shops across the country–and on three other continents.
Matt currently serves as Executive Director of the Nebraska Writers Collective, festival coordinator for the Louder Than a Bomb: Great Plains Youth Poetry Festival, past board president for the Nebraska Center for the Book, and consults for the Nebraska Arts Council for Nebraska’s Poetry Out Loud program (an NEA/Poetry Foundation program).