TONIGHT: John Matthias Reading @ Hammes 7:30-9 PM


John Matthias taught modern poetry, modern British and American literature, and creative writing for forty years at Notre Dame. He was a co-founder–with Sonia Gernes and William O’Rourke–of the MFA Creative Writing Program, and also, with a small group of colleagues in various disciplines, the Notre Dame London Program. He has been Poetry Fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge, and was elected Life Member of that college. He has been Poetry Editor of Notre Dame Review, and is now Editor at Large.

Matthias has published over thirty books of poetry, translation, memoir, criticism, and scholarship. Known primarily for his poetry–his three volume Collected Poems published by Shearsman Books runs to nearly 1,000 pages–he has recently branched out into performance pieces like the Cabaret riffs of his George Antheil / Hedy Lamarr extravaganza based on spread-spectrum technology (in which Joyelle McSweeney, Steve Fredman, and Chris Jara provided some of the voices), and, beginning after the publication of his autobiographical narratives in Who Was Cousin Alice? And Other Questions, into fiction. Different Kinds of Music is his first novel.

Matthias’s work has been published over the years by most of the major magazines in the US and the UK, including The New Yorker, Poetry, Times Literary Supplement, Salmagundi, Encounter, Parnassus, PN Review, The New Review, Boulevard, and Pleiades, and by publishers ranging from small chapbook presses to Faber and Faber. His poetry has been translated into many languages, and he has recently had volumes of selected poems published in Italian and Swedish. Two books of critical essays have been published on Matthias’s work, and writers like Robert Duncan, Guy Davenport, Marjorie Perloff, Robert Hass, and Michael Anania have argued for its international significance. 

Different Kinds of Music follows Timothy “Westy” Westmont through six episodes from his childhood and youth, through his experiences as a student and a thief, to encounters with William Faulkner’s bear in St. Louis, Hemingway’s lingering ghost at Walloon Lake in Michigan, and Phillip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus in Columbus, Ohio itself. Between the episodes appears a sequence of interchapters about music, the different kinds of which define Westmont’s experience from the 1940s to the turn of the 21st century, written in an idiom different from that of the narrative parts of the book. Different, too, is the final long chapter “Westmont as Talbot Eastmore,” in which the author of the previous five episodes tells his own story in terms of a miniature bildungsroman, which is also an elegy for an old friend.

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