Normally I don’t review poetry. This isn’t because I have less regard for poetry than other forms of fiction but does acknowledge the fact I simply do not read poetry as much as I do fiction. As a teen, I wrote a poem on the wall of my bedroom and later submitted it to a college poetry contest that to my surprise accepted it. At the time of writing the poem, I had heartache, and it seemed the only way to express how I felt was through simple lines of verse. Anyone reading the poem might pass it up as little more than the ramblings of a teenage mind not classically trained in the ways to write poetry, but for me, it continues to resonate as something very profound, insightful, and reflective.
The poetry of Matthew Stegman is much more direct than my failed attempt to write like Jim Morrison sang. Matthew’s style is to the point and page pausing. I discovered this page pausing when reading his poem “Enter the Devoid” found in his collection of poems titled If Anyone Can Hide It, It’s Me. The poem resonated for two reasons. First, the poem captures the moment in a bad relationship when you realize romance wants to die. It’s literally committing suicide before your eyes in order to separate itself from you. Second, it notes the heart not wanting to see the inevitable end. That really spoke to me, and I guess it proves one does not need an education in poems to really appreciate them.
“Sleeping (Mostly) Alone,” “Warning Signs,” and “Myodesopsia” are other noteworthy poems found in this extensive collection recording the collapse of a monumental relationship.
If Anyone Can Hide It, It’s Me contains an introduction, four acts, and section about the author in which you learn Matthew “has no notable accomplishments, but he makes up for it in charisma.” The author goes onto describe himself as an “Altruistic Hedonist” and “The Uneducated Prick.” However, me feels this not the case. I sense a humble writer, one knowing the power they possess for writing what they feel and expressing how it feels. One needs a heart to do that and a respect for the pain of having it broken. Both are marks of wisdom gained from experience, the teacher of writers.
Another book by Matthew Stegman is Parallel Universe Me Has No Scars. A book of poems, it differs in construct from the previous by not utilizing acts but continues with a similar form in having four sections devoted to poetry. The book also differs in tone and poem length. The poems are longer, in some cases taking up an entire page with minimal spacing and are darker due to their tendency to confront the reader with understanding the creator of the poem.
Whereas the poet addresses the source of pain in If Anyone Can Hide It, It’s Me, in Parallel Universe Me Has No Scars, the poet addresses the reader by not only reminding them of their nature but also the context in which the poet and reader exist. For instance, the poem “The Human Candle” confronts the reader by demanding they “Imagine my body a wick.” This is in stark contrast to “Warning Signs” with a passage that reads “…you could have told me when you stopped loving me.”
Another interesting feature of Parallel Universe Me Has No Scars is the focus on the bohemian lifestyle. Alcohol is a predominant theme in many of the poems and, so much so, the author uses the acknowledgment to thank “…every beer I chugged down in joy or escape…” This homage to beer causes me to think of Barfly, a classic film based off the life of Charles Bukowski.
The ability to write poetry is a gift many discover not by desire but need. It’s a fast way to get thoughts out yet a quick way to lose. The honesty is easy to spot and the voice clear to decipher. The power of Matthew Stegman’s pen is his ability to capture the moment the voice becomes an echo.
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