May 18, 2018
Matthew Zapruder is a poet, editor, translator, and professor. He earned a BA in Russian literature at Amherst College, an MA in Slavic languages and literature at the University of California, Berkeley, and an MFA in poetry at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Sun Bear (2014), Come On All You Ghosts (2010), The Pajamaist (2006), and American Linden (2002). His honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Residency Fellowship, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the May Sarton Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
With Brian Henry, he co-founded Verse Press, which later became Wave Books. He is now an editor with the firm. He's also a guitarist in the rock band The Figments and an associate professor in the Saint Mary’s College of California MFA Program in Creative Writing.
His most recent book is Why Poetry (2017). We met in his office in Oakland, California to discuss it, and, among other things, Joseph Conrad, life expanding beyond the ordinary, the material of language, painters and paint, troubling representation, the absurdity of using inconsistency to critique a poem; surprise, truth and beauty; genre arguments; poetry being found in translation; strange worlds and words; clarity and the best of intentions; exploring things beyond the bounds of propriety; Terrance Hayes; Keats's 'To Autumn' and Tom Paulin's interpretation of it; sleepwalking and defamiliarization; revealing and making new meaning; Shakespeare; the scariness of silence; being heard and answered; the influence and talent of Frank O'Hara; poets as archivists of language; the vibration of words; the debatability of the colour green; literal reading; perfume advertisements; the death of those close to you; helping people to make their lives better; and making poems that are worth reading.