Friday, January 07, 2005

Poetry: Forever & a Day

In the spring of 1995, I learned the younger sister of an ex-girlfriend became pregnant at the age of seventeen. For the next nine years I wrote Forever & a Day, a volume of poetry more inspired by Lou Reed, Bono, and Pete Townsend than Shakespeare or Shelley.

Have you ever heard the classic recording of Sam Cooke live at the Harlem Club in Miami in 1963? Side Two begins with the music of the previous song still rolling along (“Somebody Have Mercy”), and Sam Cooke says, “I think it’s time I told you about my baby...” And he takes the audience through five minutes of spontaneous combustion, talking about how he and his baby “fuss and fight, and sometimes my baby leaves home ’cause things ain’t right...” culminating in an incendiary rendition of “You Send Me.” The audience responds, applauding, crying out, and when the moment has reached its emotional apex, Sam Cooke explodes into a heart-shattering version of “Bring It On Home To Me.” That's Forever & a Day.

From the back cover:
In this debut collection of poems, Forever & a Day, the poet wishes for time to slip away through an open window. It happens for him. Although they are set to the ingrained pacing of the calendar, the poems move forward at a standstill, so tight is the poet’s vision and lyrical focus: an ex-girlfriend’s pregnant younger sister. If it sounds taboo enough for rock ’n’ roll, it is. But the confessional pleas are made with equivocation, awkward charm, and judgment tempered by heartfelt compassion. Reading Matt St. Amand’s first collection of poetry is like cataloging the music he grew up listening to on Detroit radio stations. You can hear the warm analog of crackling vinyl. It’s punctuated with the brutal brief lash of “Pang”; tight and confined refrains that hit like a well-timed drum fill or the atmospheric squawk of strings during a chord change (see “Poem for the Girl I don’t have the guts to talk to”); visceral evocations of places and their people: “The villagers are restless, like agitated mice./Painting their doorways with blood.” The setting is largely nocturnal, at once dream-like and hyper-real. A neighborhood with gambling clowns, propless magicians, politicians and their daredevil drinking companions; where strongmen and wordsmiths play chess, and pipers and Illuminati feed the birds…. And the poet whispers verses through timeless midnight windows accessible only by high tree branches. Forever & a Day is a concept album that actually works because it was never recorded.

— Bob Stewart, author of Something Burnt Along the Southern Border

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