Books & Talks

The Poet of Generation X

Writing a poem is akin to making indie music, says Matthew Zapruder. How emo.

By Hilary Meyerson October 8, 2010

Matthew Zapruder reads from his latest collection, Come On All You Ghosts.

He’s been called the poet of Generation X. His work references Diet Coke and Neil Young, drawing in readers more familiar with U2 lyrics than Wordsworth sonnets. But besides having street cred, San Fran resident Seattle transplant Matthew Zapruder has earned the respect of poetry’s old guard and precious space in literary pillars such as The New Yorker and the Paris Review. Zapruder takes a break from editing for Seattle’s poetry-only press Wave Books) to read from his latest collection, Come On All You Ghosts, tonight at Open Books in Wallingford. We had a quick e-chat before the event.

What’s different about your new book?

There are some more obvious autobiographical elements in Come On All You Ghosts that were probably not so out front in the first two… though to some extent that has always been in my work.

In an essay you wrote for the Poetry Foundation, you compared getting past your initial resistance to the Velvet Underground to a deeper understanding of modern poetry. Plus you’re in a band. Can you talk about the connection between indie music and poetry?

A lot of poets, of course, are really into indie music, and over the years I have come to realize that a lot of indie musicians read poetry—and like it. There seems to be something similar with what we’re trying to do with language and with audience.

Any thoughts on the Seattle poetry scene?

There are a couple very strong bookstores, including, of course, Open Books, which is unique in that it’s a poetry-only bookstore: you could get an incredible education in poetry just going to all their readings. Hugo House and Elliott Bay and the newer Pilot Books are also very strong and reliable venues. As far as the poets who live and write and work in Seattle, it’s an extremely impressive group—Seattle has always been considered a poetry town. I also think having Copper Canyon [Press] nearby [in Port Townsend] has a big effect, with its writers coming into Seattle to do readings. Hopefully Wave Books is also contributing to the already lively scene.

Is the life of the poet as we’d expect, all screaming groupies and trashed hotel rooms? What’s the best part?

The best part is getting to write poems. When I finally shake myself out of all the distractions and obligations and sit down for a few hours in pleasant silence and start lucid dreaming, I feel like the luckiest person who ever lived.

Matthew Zapruder will be at Open Books in Wallingford tonight at 7:30 to read from his new book, Come On All You Ghosts. This event is free.

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