HAPPY JUNE! KICKING US OFF IS MATTHEW KILBANE'S POEM "IN THE MANNER OF THE CHURCH." YOU CAN READ IT OVER AT THE DOCK.
HFR: "In the Manner of the Church” is obviously a narrative poem, and yet the lyricism hiding behind the narrative is what we enjoyed most about this piece. The dual assonance in lines like “hours of arduous practice” and “Seated center in the front row I froze though” imitate the action of "climbing chromatics”. Even the formatting of the line-breaks and indentation makes a reader half-swoon through the language. Was it your intention, given the subject matter, to make the poem as much about the sound as possible?
MK: Thanks—those are very generous observations. Certainly it was important to me to make the language worthy of repeated readings out loud, of that particular relish we have for language that’s sonically alive. I like to think (indeed I hope!) that a focus on sound is central to my practice regardless of the subject matter, but your comment is terrifically suggestive of something I hadn’t considered: the extent to which lyric poetry is kind of like a cappella music. In two senses, maybe. Firstly, of course, that poetic language goes it alone, without instrumentation, and must either generate its own rhythms or appeal to the readers’ memory of certain rhythms—the specter of the iamb being only the most insistent. Secondly, poetry, like a cappella music, is often fairly embarrassing, right? No offense to singers, but I think that's one cultural take on it--a dorkiness, a capacity for corn. For me, the particular form of embarrassment that attends this sort of thoroughly unadorned performance strikes close to the experience of the lyric. I think it’s remarkably productive for poets, this fact that the snicker and the swoon exist in such close proximity. Are at times, for me at least, indistinguishable.
Originally from Cleveland, Matt Kilbane is currently a PhD candidate in English at Cornell University. He received his MFA from Purdue University where he served as poetry editor of Sycamore Review.