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Q&A with Poetry Contributor Matt McBride

Matt McBride's work has recently appeared in or is forthcoming from Court Green, Map Literary, Ninth Letter, and Packingtown Review, amongst others. His first book, City of Incandescent Light, was released by Black Lawrence Press in 2018.

His poem “Today I Was So Happy I Wrote This Poem” will appear in the Winter 2019 issue of Carve. Preorder or subscribe by Sunday, January 13, for special savings.

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In "Today I Was So Happy I Wrote This Poem," you offer an interesting perspective on happiness by way of various mundane occurrences that have, unexpectedly, allowed us to find light in this "complicated" world. What exactly inspired you to write this poem?

This poem is a little atypical for me. When I was working on what would eventually be my book, I often started composing based on an emotion. I would start thinking of the emotion spatially, finding object correlatives for the different "notes" of that emotion until I felt I had presented it as a fully realized place. After awhile, I stopped using that method to compose because I was worried it had become a crutch, and after publishing my book I consciously decided to avoid starting poems that way. However, the day I wrote this poem it simply was a good day, and I realized that I had never really given happiness the same treatment as I had other "deeper" emotions, so I decided to try. This poem was my trial.

Which poets—or other writers—influenced this poem? In what ways have their work impacted your work as a whole?

I stole the title from James Wright, and I've admired his work for a long time, but in terms of content I was probably most influenced by Mary Ruefle. I've always enjoyed her ability to balance a voice that is omniscient yet playful. In her poems there's often a free-associating consciousness tethered to an emotional center, and that's a mode I have had in the back of my head for a very long time when composing poems.

Are you currently working on any projects that this poem is a part of?

This poem was an occasional poem, which is something I don't do a lot of anymore. Usually if I'm writing I have an eye towards how whatever poem I'm writing would fit into a larger "project," (for better or worse). I wrote this while working on a series of poems about colony collapse in bees which has wound up being a very research-intensive project and is dourer in tone than this poem. Perhaps composing this poem was my subconscious' way of reminding me that I've got to make room for accident or I'll lose the joy in writing.

What is your go-to routine when it comes to writing?

Unfortunately, I don't have one, which is a problem. Perfect me gets up at five or six, and writes for an hour or two before starting my course prep for the day. Perfect me does this at my desk at school, six days a week with one day off. If perfect me is uninspired or stuck, he'll send out submissions (often, however, the more perfect me writes, the more perfect me finds to write about). Perfect me puts in his hour to two hours, depending, and then shifts into teacher mode. Perfect me is not distracted by anxiety regarding his students' performance or needs for the hour(s) he works, nor is he worried about "work stuff" in general. In a good year, I can be perfect me maybe 20% of the time.