A while back, I started seeing the name, Clay Matthews, practically everywhere I looked, from the TOCs of my favorite journals to the lists of authors published by some of my favorite book presses. So I made it my business to check out his work. Perhaps I was seeking inspiration; maybe part of me was looking for a loose thread to pull (we are a petty lot at times). What I found, though, was exactly the kind of poet that America needs right now. With an ear for sound and an eye for craft, Matthews has the chops to be one of the top poets in Academia; he writes with grit, though, a working class honesty and strength reminiscent of Phil Levine. There’s vulnerability and tenderness here, too, as well as humor, so that one starts to wonder if there’s anything Matthews can’t do on a page.

Put another way, reading his poems fills me with much the same awe that I imagine I’d feel if I chanced upon an 800-pound gorilla deftly folding origami cranes to give to children after carving an ice sculpture and overhauling a tractor engine in record time.

So, yeah. I’m a fan.



The Dead Horses I Have Known

The Dead Horses I Have Known by Clay Matthews


MoonPie Montage

MoonPie Montage by Clay Matthews


Perpetual Motion Machine

Perpetual Motion Machine by Clay Matthews


Limestone Antithesis

Limestone Antithesis by Clay Matthews



Hagiography by Clay Matthews


Clay Matthews

Clay Matthews has published poetry in journals such as The American Poetry Review, Black Warrior Review, Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, and elsewhere. His most recent book, Shore, was recently released from Cooper Dillon Books. His other books are Superfecta (Ghost Road Press), RUNOFF (BlazeVox), and Pretty, Rooster (Cooper Dillon). He teaches at Tusculum College in Greeneville, TN, and edits poetry for the Tusculum Review.





For photo credits, click through to the poem.