Matthew Frank’s new collection of poems exchanges ideas for music and music for pictures, with completely unexpected freshness and velocity–and this is not the experience of surrealism, but of a current realism that is hastening with the times. And these times are often rude and beyond all correction and all comparison. This book is sort of miraculous. I love it.
-Norman Dubie, author of The Mercy Seat
In Matthew Gavin Frank’s splendid debut collection, Sagittarius Agitprop, poem after poem is unswervingly bold and astonishing. “Parts of a Feather,” to give an illustration, may be grounded in the experience of newlyweds home from a rainy honeymoon in Venice, but its opening announces that something very different from a personal narrative is at work in a Frank poem: “The superstitious geometry of the rock dove rests/ between its first and fifth rib. And you// rest between it, poised as water. It’s easy/ to call you a disease. Better: a heart or rain[.]” These are striking lines and they move into a startling meditation on art, life, union, and mortality: “Of course, you say, my hands// are the skeletons of everything with wings . . ./ A feather // stripped of barbs is bone.” Frank is a master of deft balance between the material of experience and lyric transformation, never losing his poetic footing or his sense of humor. As the speaker hilariously observes: “A marriage license/ makes a lousy umbrella” (“Parts of a Feather”). These poems are inventive, fearless, and wise. To be Frank, I think he walks on the water that is the page!
– Cynthia Hogue, author of The Incognito Body and Flux
Matthew Gavin Frank was born and raised in Chicago. Bitten by the food, wine, and travel bug, he left home at age seventeen, embracing the vagabond lifestyle that often lent itself to work in the restaurant industry. He ran a tiny breakfast joint in Juneau, Alaska, worked the Barolo wine harvest in Italy’s Piedmont, sautéed hog snapper hung-over in Key West, designed multiple degustation menus for Julia Roberts’s private parties in Taos, New Mexico, served as a sommelier for Chefs Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand in Chicago, and assisted Chef Charlie Trotter with his Green Kitchen cooking demonstration at the Slow Food Nation 2008 event in San Francisco. He returned to academia and received his MFA in Poetry and Creative Nonfiction from Arizona State University. He taught creative writing to undergraduates in Phoenix, Arizona, and poetry to soldiers and their families near Fort Drum in upstate New York on the Canadian border.