Sebastian Matthews is the author of the memoir In My Father’s Footsteps (W.W. Norton & Co.) as well as two collections of poetry, We Generous and Miracle Day, both published by Red Hen Press. A third collection, Beginner’s Guide to a Head-on Collision, will come out from Red Hen in 2017. Along with Stanley Plumly, Matthews is the co-editor of three volumes: The Poetry Blues: Essays and Interviews of William Matthews (University of Michigan Press), Search Party: The Collected Poems of William Matthews (Houghton Mifflin), a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize, and New Hope for the Dead: Uncollected Matthews (Red Hen Press). His poetry and prose have appeared in or on, among others, American Poetry Review, The Atlantic, Blackbird, The Common, From the Fishouse, Georgia Review, Massachusetts Review, New England Review, Poets & Writers, storySouth, The Sun, Tin House, Virginia Quarterly Review, Writer’s Almanac, and Writer’s Chronicle.
Matthews received his MFA in fiction at the University of Michigan. He taught for over a decade at Warren Wilson College in their undergraduate writing program, as well as serving on the faculty at the Great Smokies Writing Program at the University of North Carolina, Asheville and at the Queen’s University of Charlotte, Low-Residency in Creative Writing (MFA). He has been a visiting writer at Franklin and Marshall, the Institute of American Indian Arts, Pitzer College, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (Meacham Conference), UNC-Wilmington’s Writers Week, and the Vermont Studio Center, among others.
Matthews has received fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council, Vermont Studio Center, and Asheville Area Arts Council, as well being rewarded a Bernard DeVoto Fellowship in Nonfiction at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference.
Formerly the editor of Rivendell, a place-based literary journal, Matthews now serves on the editorial board of Q Avenue Press, with whom he designs, edits and produces collaborative chapbooks and letterpress broadsides. He has served as poetry editor for Ecotone: Re-Imagining Place and guest editor at Asheville Poetry Review, working with editor Keith Flynn on its jazz issue.
Matthews’ handmade collages have been exhibited at Asheville Book Works and William King Museum’s Contemporary Regional Gallery, as well as being featured in Asheville Poetry Review, Café Review and Iron Horse Review. He curated the show From BMC to NYC: The Tutelary Years of Ray Johnson (1943-1967) for the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center and edited its exhibition catalogue.
Matthews currently serves on the board of the Vermont Studio Center and on the advisory board for Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts & Letters. He lives with his wife and son in Asheville, North Carolina, where he is working on a novel and a collection of personal essays. (Sebastian Matthews)
This poem may not be to everyone’s taste, but his description is so vivid I almost felt like I was there. It’s a place I would have been very much at home in!
Live at the Village Vanguard
Near the end of Bill Evans’ “Porgy (I Loves You, Porgy)”
played live at the Village Vanguard and added as an extra track
on Waltz for Debby (a session made famous by the death
of the trio’s young bassist in a car crash) a woman laughs.
There’s been background babble bubbling up the whole set.
You get used to the voices percolating at the songs’ fringes,
the clink of glasses and tips of silver on hard plates. Listen
to the recording enough and you almost accept the aural clutter
as another percussive trick the drummer pulls out, like brushes
on a snare. But this woman’s voice stands out for its carefree
audacity, how it broadcasts the lovely ascending stair of her happiness.
Evans has just made one of his elegant, casual flights up an octave
and rests on its landing, notes spilling from his left hand
like sunlight, before coming back down into the tune’s lush
living-room of a conclusion. The laugh begins softly, subsides,
then lifts up to step over the bass line: five short bursts of pleasure
pushed out of what can only be a long lovely tan throat. Maybe
Evans smiles to himself when he hears it, leaving a little space
between the notes he’s cobbled to close the song; maybe
the man she’s with leans in, first to still her from the laugh
he’s just coaxed from her, then to caress the cascade of her hair
that hangs, lace curtain, in the last vestiges of spotlight stippling the table.
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