Matt Bialer is an American poet, an artist and a street-photographer. His poetry revolves around urban legends, mythical characters and monsters. He has published numerous collections, among which Bridge, Distant Shores, Formation and Wonder Weavers.
What is your earliest reading memory?
Probably Dr. Seuss. But the first novel I ever read that made me go WOW was Slaughter House Five by Vonnegut.
Has writing been a conscious choice or a natural thing for you?
Both. It was a natural thing when I first started and then I became too self-conscious and could not write for years. Then I got loose again and started to write again. I am always nervous before I begin writing something. I love finishing a piece.
Do you have any special habits or rituals when you write?
I have to read a lot (as in research for a long, epic poem). I write down what I read because I want the words and images in my head to help trigger other words and images. I have to be absolutely saturated in the subject and then I think about other elements that I can bring in that are “counter” or complementary to the subject.
Do you choose your poems or do the poems choose you?
I choose them. But sometimes the idea just sits out there for me and it puts itself in front of the line.
What national books/authors do you enjoy re-reading and why?
In terms of poets…seminal to me are John Ashbery, Robert Penn Warren, Mark Strand, Elizabeth Bishop, Yeats. And then there are the Romantics like Wordsworth and Coleridge.
What foreign books/authors do you enjoy re-reading and why?
Pablo Neruda. I can always go back to him. His work is so epic and humble and human. I used to love Rilke. I have not read him in a long time. Odysseus Elytis. I didn’t know who he was until he won the Nobel Prize. And then I was hooked. A great, great poet.
What is so important about fiction/poetry?
We need it to explore what it means to live and breathe and to keep ourselves humble.
Can you cry writing your own poem?
What is your ideal reader?
Someone who thinks outside the box and has an imagination and believes in stuff like UFOS. But I want them to also know poetry.
Should writers be embraced by society or should they be exiled?
Embraced. But I get sick of the institutionalizing of writers who are acceptable. How many prizes go to the same batch of writers all of the time? And the energy is in the small presses in both fiction and poetry. Stop rewarding the Knopfs of the world for not even publishing what is the best and most interesting work.
Is there a God or are there gods for writers?
I don’t know.
What makes a writer a writer?
I don’t honestly know. But they usually have “it” or they don’t. I so rarely see someone who is terrible that becomes good. I see someone who is pretty good from the start that becomes a lot better.
Tell us about your poetry.
My poetry is usually about the stuff that is on at 3 am on the Discovery Channel. I wrote about UFOS, Bigfoot, Ghost rockets, Electronic Voice Phenomenon, Nazis, The Philadelphia Experiment, The Lizard Man, the search for Noah’s Ark, past lives….I like writing about things I know nothing about when I start or I don’t know if I believe in when I start. I pretty much believe in UFOS. Not all of the reports, of course. But I believe people do see these flying discs. What we don’t know is where they are from. They could be from other dimensions. And I started out as non-believer in Bigfoot. I read books and books. I am pretty convinced that they exist. We have their footprints, knuckle prints, half a body print, their shit, their hair. People who say no are uninformed and are like people who keep hitting the same key on a piano. There are some very intelligent books by academics on the subject. I recommend Jeff Meldrum. He is an expert on primate bipedalism.
What is the purpose of your writing?
To not be bored.
How do you really feel about recognition and fame? Are you a satisfied mind or always craving for more?
I would like maybe a little more recognition as an artist in general. I work very hard in the visual arts too. I am never a satisfied mind. I don’t know if that is good or bad. But I balance it with family. That keeps me from being too self-indulgent.