Matt in Romania for a State Department Poetry Program October 16-29, 2015
Matt was in Romania for programs in Bucharest, Craiova, and Drobeta Turnu Severin, working with high school and college students on poetry writing and performance, leading to a poetry slam at the end of each city’s visit. This is the 4th State Department program he’s run, though he’s been lucky to have had help the previous 2 trips by some amazing poets, coaches, and organizers. Read about it in the October 13th Omaha World-Herald: http://www.omaha.com/living/poet-brings-slam-to-countries-budding-young-wordsmiths/article_9bc28d33-db0d-505c-9f4b-9ce3881bcf07.html
And here is an article from the Romania-Insider’s Daily News section:
American poet comes to Romania to teach students slam poetry
I’m honored to have a poem up on the final month of the fantastic Indiefeed performance poetry podcast! “I Want To Hear Some Poems” is now up at: http://indiefeedpp.libsyn.com/matt-mason-i-want-to-hear-some-poems
For those who don’t know, Indiefeed has been up for ten years, showcasing great podcasts centered on one poem by the best out there in spoken word poetry, featuring poems from poetry slams, cowboy poetry events, foreign events, and more. Check out my poem, of course, but stick around and find plenty of great reasons to keep clicking links.
Before working with American Studies University students today in Bucharest, I stopped by the local English Language bookstore, Anthony Frost. It’s in a beautiful location, tucked near the Kretzulescu Church on Calea Victoriei. I felt a little sheepish as I don’t know the author Anthony Frost. Turns out, there’s a good reason: Anthony Frost was a truck driver, not an author.
Talking to Vlad, the owner, I found out Anthony Frost is the first Brit he met when Anthony showed up in Romania after the 1989 revolution with twelve trucks full of donated supplies. He was a normal guy who, on seeing news stories, went door to door knocking and collecting donations. That’s whose name this bookstore has. That’s who the owner thinks is important to be remembered.
And he’s right. And it’s a beautiful shop. I bought a bunch of books (some for Lucia and Sophia, a couple for me), some great locally-made notebooks on hand-made paper, and had a fine cup of tea while talking to Vlad.
So if you are ever nearby, stop in and browse. Support a beautiful spot worth your time.
45 Calea Victoriei, Sector 1, Bucharest 010062, Romania
I think the jet lag is hitting me hard, but the 2-day workshop with students at Colegiul National “Carol I” (the 2nd-oldest school in Romania where I was working with 9th-11th graders) in Craiova went great. The feedback on today was through the roof, the embassy staffer with me and the teachers were really happy and the kids were coming up with great lines. And it felt good, I feel I did a good job today.
There is something magic about walking into a room of kids, American or other, half of whom say they’ve never written a poem before and then see all of them writing something worth keeping by the end. I really love this, it’s kind of amazing to see happen.
We did writing and performance work for two days and capped it with maybe the first poetry slam ever in Craiova. 19 students participated, 19 students won. I love my job.
With some amazing jetlag (during which I tried to see the Van Gogh Museum during my layover in Amsterdam even though my head kept insisting it was 3am and art cannot be
properly appreciated by me at 3am), I wandered Bucharest today, taking a walking tour and also wandering on my own quite a bit through Old Town and around various neighborhoods. Here, I saw the National Art Museum (which I was able to enjoy far more than the Van Gogh Museum as, jetlagged, I’m nowhere near as jetlagged as I was in Amsterdam) and several of the sites of the 1989 revolution where Ceausescu was overthrown and executed. Today was also my 12th wedding anniversary so it’s odd to be going through the day without having anyone to talk to, so I’m grateful for the parts of technology which let me talk to Sarah today.
One of the inspiring monuments to the revolution is out front of the Parliament Palace where Ceausescu gave his final speech where things turned on him. Though there are jokes about it, it’s about Democracy piercing the cage of Communism (and not a giant potato on a stick).
Also associated with the revolution is the area in front of the National Theater where much the the killing happened when authorities opened fire on crowds. But there’s also a statue of characters from a Romanian playwright’s work and, though you can hardly see him as the tree obscures him, he sits in a chair enjoying the view of his characters.
The streets were both charming and odd (and by odd I am almost entirely talking about the statue of a naked Roman Emperor Trajan levitating a wolf) and there was a lot to learn about Bucharest and the history of the city and of Romania.
There was also a Dracula (Vlad the Impaler) sighting as he lived in Bucharest for part of his life. More, at least, than the castle they sell tours to as “Dracula’s Castle” where he stayed for 2 or 3 nights. Our tour guide said this happens as the castle looks good, much better than the more villa-like building he would have lived in here.
I made it safely to Bucharest and here was one of the first things I saw. Statue of a guy reading passionately from a book. I’ll take this as a good sign.
So in 1997, I did some readings at The Bookworm bookstore in Omaha where they liked these poems about cows I brought with me. They told me if I ever put something together, they’d get it on the shelves. Thus began Morpo Press and my lucrative career in chapbook publishing.
The poems in Old Froggo’s Book of Practical Cows largely came about when my classmates at UC Davis would find weird newspaper clippings about cows and give them to me (because, of course, I come from Nebraska). The result is a bunch of weird poems that I still like. It was even reviewed in the Omaha World-Herald:
“Old Froggo’s Book of Practical Cows, a cow-and-Omaha themed poetry collection by Matt Mason of Bellevue, available at the Village Bookstore at 87th and Pacific Streets. The 39-page booklet, self-published by Mason, is a hoot. It contains poems with titles such as ‘Nonviolent Resistance and a Cow,’ ‘When Cows Ruled the Earth,’ and ‘Ode to Omaha.’” — John Keenan
See? Instant poetic legitimacy!
As a gift to my good readers out there, I give you… free cow poems!
Click on the cover to download:
Old Froggo’s Book of Practical Cows, free eChapbook by Matt Mason
Here’s where to catch Matt reading from the new book this year. The book is available through Soul Desires bookstore in Omaha, all online retailers, and can be ordered through your neighborhood store:
April 28: Soul Desires Bookstore (1026 Jackson St Omaha, NE 68102)
May 3: Nebraska State Capitol (Lincoln)
May 10: OM Center Poetry Slam (1216 Howard St Omaha, NE 68102)
May 15: First Christian Church (6630 Dodge St., Omaha) as part of the STIR series
May 31 & June 1: Buffalo Commons Storytelling Festival, McCook
June 4: Reading with John Price at Garden Grove Eatery, 1911 Old Lincoln Hwy, Crescent Iowa
June 6: Pinot, Pigs & Poets, fundraiser for Completely Kids at Happy Hollow Club, Omaha
June 11: 7pm, Poetry On The Bricks, TRU Café (2100 Central Ave Kearney, NE)
June 18: 7pm, Des Moines Poetry Slam, Java Joe’s (214 4th St Des Moines, IA)
July 20: 1pm, El Museo Latino (4701 S 25th St Omaha, NE 68107)
July 28: 1pm, The Bookworm bookstore (87th and Pacific Streets Omaha)
September 18: 7pm, David City High School Activities Center (750 D St, David City)
September 26: 7pm, VLP Poetry Slam, USD Student Union, Vermillion SD
October 11: Saint Peter Elementary School Literary Festival, Lincoln
October 23: Northeast Community College, Norfolk
November 21: Plains Writers Fiesta, Wayne
December 4: UNO Fall 2013 Writer’s Workshop Reading Series