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William Matthews’s ten books have gradually earned him a place on the first roster of American poets —” as water licks its steady way through stone.” “ Very little of the poetry of the past twenty years,” Henry Taylor has written in the Washington Times, “ is more intelligent and engaging than that of William Matthews…Admiring gratitude seems perfectly appropriate.” The New Yorker has described Matthews’s work as “ poems that revel in etymology and delight in colloquialism.” And Carol Muske, in The Nation, has added: “ If asked, I couldn’t come up with a poet more in tune with the ironies and stand-up vernacular, the jazz of the everyday, than William Matthews…Matthews is a wise and fine poet and a funny person. Like time and money, an unbeatable combination. “ This is a large-hearted book, a strong and worldly book, the work of five years by one of the most admired and generous of American poets.
When William Matthews died of a heart attack in 1997, the day after his fifty-fifth birthday, America lost one of its most important poets, one whose humor and wit were balanced by deep emotion, whose off-the-cuff inventiveness belied the acuity of his verse.
With Search Party, his son Sebastian and his friend and fellow poet Stanley Plumly have brought together a collection drawing from all of Matthews’s previously published work as well as twenty-three never-before-published poems. Here are meditations on relationships, work, family life, and, of course, jazz: “I love the smoky libidinal murmur / of a jazz crowd…/ I like to slouch back / with that I’ll-be-here-awhile tilt.” Pleasure is abundant in these poems: music, wine, love, and language are, for Matthews, the necessary consolations for life’s suffering.
Full of as much wisdom and song as heartbreak and loss, Search Party will bring a wider reading audience to this “poet of experience” and his benedictions of everyday life.