Category Archives: Trista Mateer

Blackout Poetry featuring Motion City Soundtrack


(photo credit: Joe Lemke at 9:30 Club, DC)

Earlier this month, I flew home and I caught one of the dates on Motion City Soundtrack’s So Long, Farewell tour. For those of you who might not know, they’re a band hailing from Minneapolis whose music slipped pretty easily into my teenage genres of choice, somewhere between emo and pop punk. They announced an indefinite hiatus earlier this year and I figured I owed to myself (or at least the part of myself that used to cry to their second album pretty regularly) to go and see them off. I grabbed a couple of my old high school friends, dug out my Converse and my black eyeliner, pulled on a band tee I bought at my first Warped Tour. It was a little like stepping right back into 2007 except during the downtime, instead of talking about classes and crushes and not fitting in, I was doing work on my phone.

Personally, I feel like there’s something about the bands you loved in high school that sticks with you. You never really get attached to music quite the same way again. It’s always there and it’s always important, but at that age you’re so desperate to find the thing that’s going to keep your head above water—or at least I was—that you never really let go of it once you find it. It was impossible to stand there listening to those songs without thinking about all my old fears about the future and not fitting in and the boys I used to kiss and the girls I didn’t have the courage to. A lot of those feelings are what fuel my own writing now, that need to combat my insecurities with words and carve out a space for myself.

I put together this entire article just to have the opportunity to say somewhere publicly that looking around that venue, being surrounded by all those other fucked up kids who grew up, had me crying before MCS even finished their first song. I know we all feel like we’re fighting the world at sixteen and maybe we are, but it was so reassuring at twenty-five to be in a room full of people who kicked back and fought their fights and won. Growth looked so goddamn good on every person in that room; all those Make Out Kids, all those Even If It Kills Me kids stumbling face first into a future that’s not far enough away to freak us out anymore.

For the first time since I’d heard the song, I was able to shout back the chorus to “Everything Is Alright” and mean it.

Anyway, in the spirit of a very small tribute, I made a blackout poem out of one song off of each of Motion City Soundtrack’s studio albums and the results are below:


Contributing Editor


Trista Mateer is a writer and poet living outside of Baltimore, Maryland. She believes in lipstick, black tea, and owning more books than she can ever possibly read. Known for her eponymous blog, she is also the author of two collections of poetry.


National Poetry Month Roundup

2016’s National Poetry Month has come to a firm close and most of the writers I know who’ve participated are happy to see it off. We can all put down the caffeine and apologize to our friends for making metaphors out of their relationship problems. It’s tough work getting out one solid poem a day for an entire month. There’s little time to edit or second-guess what you’re writing and for some of us, the inspiration doesn’t last throughout the whole month (although there’s no shortage of prompts to be found during this time of year). But out of the sweat and tears of emerging and establishing poets (once you sort through the mess of half-written pieces and untitled prose), there’s something organic about the poetry that gets rushed out in April. I like to think it’s something about necessity, something earnest and desperate, urgent to get on the page. In the spirit of that, here’s a round up of some of my favorite poems from this year’s National Poetry Month.


1/30
by Lydia Havens



2/30
by Yena Sharma Purmasir



7/30
by Sarah Gehring



14/30
by Lora Mathis



16/30
by Cecilie K.



17/30
by Irene Vazquez



18/30
by Emma Tranter



22/30
by Rudy Francisco



27/30
by Ari Eastman



29/30
by Kelsey Danielle



Contributing Editor


Trista Mateer is a writer and poet living outside of Baltimore, Maryland. She believes in lipstick, black tea, and owning more books than she can ever possibly read. Known for her eponymous blog, she is also the author of two collections of poetry.


Another Rape Poem: A List of Poems That Break the Silence on Sexual Assault + Rape Culture

Trigger Warning: rape, sexual assault, sexual violence.

I’ve been thinking a lot about rape poems, how people basically view them as a trope of the genre at this point, how almost every poet I know has one—whether they use the R-word or not, whether it’s about them or a friend or just the culture we live in. I have one in my second book. For the longest time, I felt guilty about writing another one. Like I’d already used up my opportunity, like if I didn’t have something particularly new to say about the topic, then I shouldn’t bother bringing it up again. But for the last month, it’s been almost all I could write about. Some months are just like that. You know how you can’t shake things, sometimes? I put that poem in my book because I didn’t want to see feedback about it on the internet. I didn’t want to see the tags or the comments. But, man, it’s 2016. People are rallying behind Kesha, Biden is speaking out about sexual violence, Gaga is performing about it on the Oscars. Still, when I posted a new piece about rape on my blog last week, it took about about ten minutes for someone to tag it with “you should have just said yes.”

Those first nine minutes felt great though; so here are roughly twenty-five minutes on catharsis, validation, healing, and social commentary. Here’s another rape poem:


“Another Rape Poem” by Brenna Twohy

“I am tired of hearing rape poems the same way soldiers are tired of hearing their own guns go off. Believe me, we all wish the war was over. But friend, you are staring out at a world on fire complaining about how ugly you think the ashes are. The poems are not the problem.”



“American Rape Culture” by Desireé Dallagiacomo & FreeQuency

“In less than forty years, rape has gone from ‘punishable by death’ to ‘qualifier’: rape joke, rape song, rape scene. From birth, American Culture teaches children what gender they will be: perpetrator or victim.”



“Piñata” by Pages Matam

“To the man on the bus I overheard in conversation tell a woman, presumably a friend, ‘you are too ugly to be raped.’ Dear man on the bus, tell the one in five women of this country that they are beautiful, their four counterparts spared torment, ugly.”


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“Say No” by Megan Falley & Olivia Gatwood

“Somewhere, a girl is told that if she doesn’t want to hear the song about rape, don’t listen to it; but it follows her in the supermarket, the gym, the girls’ clothing aisle and now she knows all the words.”



“Go Away” by Hieu Minh Nguyen & Ollie Schminkey

“You are asking me if my sexuality is a side effect. You are asking me where I came from. You are asking what made me this way. I do not need a diagnosis. I do not need an origin story. I do not need to explain my existence. I was not made this way. My rapist is not a god.”



“People You May Know” by Kevin Kantor

“Two police officers told me that I must give his act a name or it didn’t happen, that obviously I could have fought back. Which is to say, no one comes running for young boys who cry rape. When I told my brother, he also asked me why I didn’t fight back. Adam, I am. Right now. I promise.”



“One Color” by Neil Hilborn & Ollie Schminkey

“We teach that rape is always a man in an alley. Always a clenched jaw and a closed fist. Always a stained white shirt. But I never used my pepper spray. I never had to worry about an uncle or a locker room. Do not confuse one story for all stories.”



“Paper Dolls” by Sierra DeMulder

“Nothing was stolen from you. Your body is not a hand-me-down and there is nothing that sits inside you holding your worth. No locket that can be seen or touched, fucked from your stomach to be left on the concrete.”



Contributing Editor


Trista Mateer is a writer and poet living outside of Baltimore, Maryland. She believes in lipstick, black tea, and owning more books than she can ever possibly read. Known for her eponymous blog, she is also the author of two collections of poetry.


Influences Interview Series with M Lynne Hayward


M. Lynne Hayward

As a light refresher, the Influences Interview Series focuses on how what you’re reading shapes what you’re writing. It’s a poetry recommendation followed by a less established poet to keep your eye on.

This week we’re cozying up with M Lynne Hayward. She’s picked Russell Edson as a writer who has personally influenced her style, and chose the poem “Counting Sheep” as a prime example of what he did with words that she finds so affecting.



Appears in The Tunnel: Selected Poems of Russell Edson available on Amazon.


Trista Mateer : So… Russell Edson? How did you come across his work and what particular elements of his writing would you say influence your personal writing style?

M Lynne Hayward : I was in an intensive creative writing program in high school. Russell Edson was one of the first writers we encountered who strayed away from traditional verse. Until I read his work, I appreciated the craft of poetry but I wasn’t impassioned by it. It wasn’t until I saw how he flattened magic and injected wonder into the mundane that I felt like I wanted to write poetry. I don’t emulate his form directly, but I was deeply informed by his blend of poetry and prose. He gave me permission for fantasy to flourish in my work.

Trista Mateer : He weaved fantasy and poetry together expertly. I could just be reading the wrong things, but I really don’t see that much in contemporary poetry. Was there anything about “Counting Sheep” specifically that spoke to you or was it just a poem you thought portrayed his specific style well?

M Lynne Hayward : The imagery still sticks with me and I read it almost 10 years ago. I still think of “He wonders if he shouldn’t rub them into a red paste between his fingers” every time I fire up the rice cooker. The simultaneous distance and curiosity of this poem is also something I identified with. I have bipolar disorder, so I have a dual perspective of everything depending on the time of the year. Both tend to get captured when I examine something in writing.

Trista Mateer : I feel like that simultaneous distance and curiosity is something you’ve achieved in the poem you’re about to share with us. Is there anything you’d like to say about it before we press on?

M Lynne Hayward : I wrote “Natural Disasters” as two separate poems. As I was going through my worst manic and depressive episodes respectively. As I worked on it, I kept thinking “what’s the worst thing that could happen to me” and the answer was “this.” So I started playing with the idea of the world falling apart in grand sci-fi fashion while the greatest problem in the universe was still my micro-drama. I really tried to transfer my dissociation into the words, so I’m glad that came across.


Natural Disasters by M Lynne Hayward

Last week…

Some drunk asshole dropped the moon
and it shattered all over the earth:
pox-marked glass shards from sea to shining sea.

The tides will recover
after Cthulhu rises,
but it fucked up everybody’s horoscope.

I press my ear to your wan stomach,
coy bubbles the only proof
you didn’t descend blonde from the heavens
to seduce me in my sleep.

The stars are due to fall on… Wednesday?
I’ll try to take the day off
to lay on the beach with you
and watch Aquarius pour into the ocean.

Wednesday

You kicked me in your sleep.
I kicked back.
You rolled over.

An even NPR voice called from the radio,
“Fire has consumed the Midwest
and we are next.”

I looked out the windows.
Asteroids and looters littered the streets.

I went to the kitchen and
dug through the freezer until I recovered
my cache of gin
the good stuff.

I thought of the lie I’d tell my sponsor,
“Don’t you think the end of the world counts a special occasion.”
I choked when I laughed
and the liquor wet my shirt.

I took the bottle to bed with me like baby.

Calm voices had given way to riot horns.
You snored
and I laughed again
and I couldn’t stop.
As the drizzle of meteor showers
gave birth to hell fire
I hiccuped and giggled
while you were consumed by sleep
and we were burned alive.


M is chronically bored. She cuts her ennui with internet addiction, screenwriting, spoken word poetry, flash fiction, game design, food, irregular sleep cycles, and lazy activism. M did a handstand once and almost fell off her bed. She never attempted to do that again. Last spring, M published a personal chapbook filled with lies (BAD TOUCH). She’s publishing a book of passive agressive odes before the end of the year.

Connect with her on Tumblr and BLK Proverbs.



Contributing Editor


Trista Mateer is a writer and poet living outside of Baltimore, Maryland. She believes in lipstick, black tea, and owning more books than she can ever possibly read. Known for her eponymous blog, she is also the author of two collections of poetry.


Blackout Poetry by Trista Mateer

Another round of blackout poetry by Trista Mateer. The first of which can be viewed here. This time all three feature Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.


Contributing Editor


Trista Mateer is a writer and poet living outside of Baltimore, Maryland. She believes in lipstick, black tea, and owning more books than she can ever possibly read. Known for her eponymous blog, she is also the author of two collections of poetry.


Influences Interview Series with Jones Howell


Jones Howell

To be a writer of any kind, easily one of the most important things you have to do is read. Read everything, but most importantly read your genre. Read the greats. Read your contemporaries. Read what your friends and peers are reading. Find out what works. See how to do it well. Observe the craft to understand it.

In this new Words Dance interview series, we’re going to be talking to some less established poets about how and why they threw themselves into the ring and what works inspired them to do so. We’re going to be taking a look at how what you’re reading shapes what you’re writing (specifically as a poet). Consider this series as a poetry recommendation followed by a budding poet to keep your eye on.

To begin, we’re having a brief chat with Jones Howell. She’s picked a poem by Clementine von Radics titled “For Nikki” as one that has personally influenced her writing style.



Appears in Mouthful Of Forevers available at the WAYP store or Amazon.


Trista Mateer : First, I just want to thank you for reaching out to participate in this little interview when I put the call out. Now, you’ve chosen Clementine von Radics as someone who was most influential to your own style of writing. How did you come across Clementine’s work? And what were particular parts of her style that attracted you to her writing?

Jones Howell : Thank you for including me! My introduction to Clementine von Radics came in the form of a printed copy of her poem “Mouthful of Forevers” that hung outside the elevator in Annenberg Hall at my alma mater, Northwestern University. I read that poem every day for at least ten weeks before deciding to find more of her work. I had just completed a year-long workshop in writing fiction the year before, where I learned that my blunt, aggressive style of writing wasn’t working–at least, not as prose. Clementine has a way of telling an entire story in just a few lines. She’s very selective about her poetic devices. Before her, I didn’t know it was possible to do that and still call it poetry.

Trista Mateer : What do you find about this particular poem of hers (“For Nikki”) so appealing? Why did you pick this poem as a major influence of yours over another one of hers, such as “Mouthful of Forevers”?

Jones Howell : “For Nikki” encapsulates everything I’ve wanted to do as a writer and, frankly, everything I’ve been as a person. Both “Mouthful of Forevers” and “For Nikki” are love poems, but I have never been a “Mouthful of Forevers” kind of lover. I am not delicate and neither is my language. I want to be the backhand across the face or the shot of whiskey on an empty stomach: whatever knocks you on your ass and makes you remember my name. In eight lines and two curse words, Clementine does all that and leaves you begging for more.

Trista Mateer : Out of curiosity, is the title of the poem you’ve selected to share with us today (“Sentimental Bullshit”) directly influenced by Clementine’s poem? And is there anything else you’d like to say about it before we share it?

Jones Howell : Absolutely. The title is taken directly from her poem. “Sentimental Bullshit” began life as one of those poems where you just can’t stick the landing, no matter how many different words and phrases you try. It was one of the first poems I wrote when I decided to turn away from prose. It hung out in a Google doc, ‘finished’ but still grating on me, for weeks. When I finally figured out how to rewrite it, something shifted for me. I’d done it. I’d written something I was proud of, that I would never apologize for. I think Audrey Niffenegger said it best: “I feel a tiny pang of regret, as though I’ve lost a secret, and then a rush of exaltation: now everything begins.”


SENTIMENTAL BULLSHIT by Jones Howell

i live in the south and in the spring
everything smells like honeysuckle.

as a little girl i used to pick
the yellow flowers and pinch
the ends off with a fingernail, to drink
the nectar. maybe a drop;
two if i was lucky.

a tiny secret just-mine kind
of pleasure.

you’re kind of like that.


Jones (Jo) Howell is a 22 year old poet with an engineering degree. Her parents have stopped asking too many questions. Raised in the mid-Atlantic, educated in Chicago, and now setting down roots in Georgia, she recklessly dives headfirst into the open wounds of love, abuse, and family. She is a graduate of the Northwestern University creative writing program. Humor is her best coping mechanism.

Connect with her on Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter.



Contributing Editor


Trista Mateer is a writer and poet living outside of Baltimore, Maryland. She believes in lipstick, black tea, and owning more books than she can ever possibly read. Known for her eponymous blog, she is also the author of two collections of poetry.


POETRY VS LYRICS: The Mountain Goats

John Darnielle (constant and sometimes only member of The Mountain Goats) has long been praised for his simplistic yet evocative writing style. I’m not going out on a limb here telling you that his lyrics are an experience. Honestly there’s just something about writing that doesn’t have to dress itself up — writing that is unashamedly matter-of-fact — that really hits home for me. Darnielle epitomizes this.

Today, I don’t want to tell you that John Darnielle is a good writer. I want to tell you that he is a poet.

“My father would tell me if I wasn’t writing in meter verse, it wasn’t poetry,” Darnielle said in a New York Magazine interview in 2009. I think there are a lot of people that still hold this kind of traditionalist idea about what poetry is, about what it can and cannot be. But for the most part, I’d like to think the poetry community has opened up to accept a lot of what John Darnielle’s particular brand of writing exemplifies: that sort of raw, emotional free verse that says what it needs to say and then wraps itself up. No fuss. No mess. No unnecessary worrying about form or rhyme schemes.

The title of this piece is misleading. It’s not anything vs. anything. The fight’s been called off. It’s getting harder and harder for me to draw the line between what has the right to be considered a poem and what doesn’t; so I’m not interested in drawing lines anymore.

Here are six examples of brilliant, poetic writing by Mountain Goats founder/writer/composer/guitarist/pianist/vocalist/etc. John Darnielle:


“Fault Lines” // All Hail West Texas (2002)

down here where the watermelon grows so sweet
where I worship the ground underneath of your feet
we are experts in the art of frivolous spending
things go on like this for three years I guess
and we’re drunk all the time and our lives are a mess
and the deathless love we swore to protect with our bodies
is stumbling across it’s bleak ending
but none of the rage in our eyes
seems to finish it off where it lies
I got sugar in the fuel lines
both of us do



“Woke Up New” // Get Lonely (2006)

the first time I made coffee for just myself
I made too much of it
but I drank it all
just ‘cause you hate it when I let things go to waste
and I wandered through the house
like a little boy lost at the mall
and an astronaut could’ve seen the hunger in my eyes from space



“Dance Music” // The Sunset Tree (2005)

I’m in the living room watching the Watergate hearings
while my stepfather yells at my mother
launches a glass across the room straight at her head
and I dash upstairs to take cover
lean in close to my little record player on the floor
so this is what the volume knob’s for



“Broom People” // The Sunset Tree (2005)

I write down good reasons to freeze to death
in my spiral ring notebook
but in the long tresses of your hair
I am a babbling brook



“Going To Georgia” // Zopilote Machine (1994)

the most remarkable thing about coming home to you
is the feeling of being in motion again
it’s the most extraordinary thing in the world



“Black Pear Tree” // Black Pear Tree EP (2008)
My personal favorite.
(written by Darnielle/performed by The Mountain Goats and Kaki King)

and when its time came I could see it happen
blossoms black and sweet as Texas crude
I saw the future flowering like a ruptured vessel
somebody’s gonna get screwed
it won’t be me
someday I am going to walk out of here free



Contributing Editor


Trista Mateer is a writer and poet living outside of Baltimore, Maryland. She believes in lipstick, black tea, and owning more books than she can ever possibly read. Known for her eponymous blog, she is also the author of two collections of poetry.


Blurring The Line Between Poetry & Music


“Turning Tables” // Adele ft. Rudy Francisco

An “unofficial remix”, this track combines spoken word poet Rudy Francisco’s poem Turning Tables (from his 2011 School Spirit EP) with Adele’s song of the same name (from her 2011 album 21).



“Body Love” // Mary Lambert

Singer/songwriter Mary Lambert tends to use words in such a way that you can tell she was a poet long before we started hearing her hits on the radio. Despite being included on her debut album Heart On My Sleeve, “Body Love” comes off more spoken word performance than song.



“Nine” // La Dispute

Formed in 2004, La Dispute has been described as a post-hardcore band with spoken word influences. This track from the Here, Hear III. EP is one of my favorites but other notable songs include “Nobody, Not Even The Rain” and “Such Small Hands” (both named after an E.E. Cummings line).



“Reset My Bones” // Hunt ft. Andrea Gibson

From the album Dark Come Sooner, this song by post-rock band Hunt contains poet-activist Andrea Gibson´s poem “Jellyfish”.



Contributing Editor


Trista Mateer is a writer and poet living outside of Baltimore, Maryland. She believes in lipstick, black tea, and owning more books than she can ever possibly read. Known for her eponymous blog, she is also the author of two collections of poetry.


Blackout Poetry by Trista Mateer

Awhile ago, I thought it’d be an interesting project to make blackout poetry out of books I’d read as a kid. Something about making “grown up” art out of something “childish”. Something about taking a thing that had affected me at a certain time in my life and trying to find a new way for it to be affecting. Below are a few of my favorites ft. Eragon by Christopher Paolini and The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis.


Contributing Editor


Trista Mateer is a writer and poet living outside of Baltimore, Maryland. She believes in lipstick, black tea, and owning more books than she can ever possibly read. Known for her eponymous blog, she is also the author of two collections of poetry.


6 Short & To The Point Poems

Sticking with the theme, I’ll keep this brief:

For a community that tends to focus a lot on longer works and spoken word poetry, I just wanted to take a moment to share some of my favorite miniature poems. Poems that cut out the excess. Poems that know exactly what they’re trying to say.



featuring
Jones HowellAshe Vernon
Rupi KaurClementine von Radics
Anita OfokansiLora Mathis


Contributing Editor


Trista Mateer is a writer and poet living outside of Baltimore, Maryland. She believes in lipstick, black tea, and owning more books than she can ever possibly read. Known for her eponymous blog, she is also the author of two collections of poetry.