Beautiful. Simple. Quiet brick. Mixed wood. Cushioned chairs. They offered us cookies and tea, but should we touch anything? Should we? The Matthews seem friendly with one another. Friendly enough to call them The Matthews. They sit close. Whisper and laugh, and we all whisper too. Why do we feel the need to tread so lightly when everyone is so kind? “Some places are sacred,” Evan says to me serenely yet firmly before smiling to shake someone’s hand.
This is sort of like my shoshin, or Beginner’s Mind. These are the first observations I took down sitting in the rows of chairs set up inside the Zen Center while waiting to see Matthew Dickman and Matthew Zapruder read at the final night of Nothing is Hidden. Waiting and wondering what their poetry had in common with Zen master Shunryu Suzuki Roshi’s book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, and why Evan had told me that I could not miss this event. Not should not, could not. When that man says something like that, I listen. So, I decided to cover it, though I didn’t know much about The Matthews yet, and it was my night off.
Oh, yet. You and your foreshadowing.
Yet, after twelve days, four visits to the poems, two to Roshi’s entire text, three drafts of this article, and one if not two existential crises over fitting the insurmountable mass of meaning and depth contained in the aforementioned into an article during which I penned this gem: “I feel like a bug being squashed slowly and gently,” you’d suppose whatever you’re reading now would be damn well planned out and mind-blowingly insightful though simple and pleasant; a conversation with someone familiar, perhaps, but a beautiful conversation. One that makes you feel “like you’ve been bathing in mescaline and blowjobs” as Matthew Dickman would say. However, that’s not what this is going to be. At least, if you somehow feel that it is, it’s not because of me. Because, after working on this article longer and harder than any before it, I still had nothing at all resembling Zen Buddhism or The Matthews’ poetry in front of me. Except of course for the book on Zen Buddhism and The Matthews’ poetry.
“I don’t think poetry should be fit into the confines of capitalism. I think poets should spend a lot of time lying on their backs, contemplating the clouds. People that think hard work is the highest virtue aren’t going to put much of a premium on that but we don’t need to prove anything to those people. The work will speak for itself, will speak to people, or it won’t. The hard work that went into it is an irrelevancy. Calling poetry hard work is capitulating, surrendering to someone else’s ideals. The art exists outside of the effort, is more often borne from suffering than labor.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, the clouds:
Read more about this event here.