Improvisation Without Accompaniment

Improvisation Without Accompaniment


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"Expert and instinctive, like a cool Ed Wilkerson sax solo bouncing with lived rhythms. Morton's consummate poems will echo long after they are read." —Booklist

Selected by Patricia Smith as winner of the 2018 A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize, Matt Morton’s debut poetry collection Improvisation Without Accompaniment embraces uncertainty with a spirit of joyous playfulness.

These lyric poems follow the rhythms of life for a young man growing up in a small Texas town. As the speaker wrestles with ruptures within the nuclear family and the loss of his religious beliefs, he journeys toward a deeper self-awareness and discovers a fuller palette of experiences. Over the course of this collection, the changing seasons of small-town Texas life give way to surprise encounters in distant cities. The speaker’s awareness of mortality grows even as he improvises an affirming response to life’s toughest questions.

Poignant, searching, and earnestly philosophical, Improvisation Without Accompaniment reaches for meaning within life’s joys and griefs.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781942683957
Publisher: BOA Editions, Ltd.
Publication date: 04/07/2020
Series: New Poets of America Series , #44
Pages: 88
Sales rank: 1,244,943
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Matt Morton holds a BA from the University of Texas at Austin and an MFA from the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars. His poetry appears in AGNI, Gettysburg Review, Harvard Review, Tin House Online, and elsewhere. His work has received support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. He serves as associate editor for 32 Poems and is a Robert B. Toulouse Doctoral Fellow in English at the University of North Texas. He lives in Dallas, TX.

Read an Excerpt

Not the Wind, Not the View

Two thousand miles away from here, my father

is lying in a strange room, being tended to.

It is always getting later. No matter

if morning is dampening the earth,

or burnt orange evening rending itself apart,

the doldrums of afternoon stuck in between.

This morning, I was sifting through

a famous nearly-dead novelist’s letters,

wondering why he’d kept them all

so neatly filed away. I wasn’t certain,

but I had an idea. An idea

cannot fix a heart. It cannot douse

a house on fire, which earlier I thought

my neighbor’s was, but no, he was burning

wood in his backyard. Right now, I’m heating

a frozen dinner. In the studio next door

a woman is singing, and a voice on the radio

is trying to resuscitate itself beneath layers

of static. I had an idea that each day seems

the same, yet somehow shorter.

Slight variances in the weather,

rhythmic substitutions in the traffic’s pulse.

I’m not sure what, but something

is long overdue. Do you understand

what it is I am saying? Somewhere

in America my father is dying and I am

sitting here, listening to the radio.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“What follows are poems of arresting insight and stark assurance. What follows are the agile lines of someone who has mastered the sudden slap, the hushed lyric.”
—Patricia Smith, from the Foreword

“What stands in the back of Matt Morton’s beautiful and disturbing Improvisation Without Accompaniment is a persistent emotional attachment to literary and religious traditions in which the speaker of these poems intellectually disbelieves. Familial trauma and a foundering romance become occasions for a book-length compelling meditation on our particular moment in history, on the enduring value of person-to-person connection in a world whose ever-accelerating pace of change complicates and deepens the very needs it promises to satisfy.”
—Alan Shapiro

“Matt Morton must not have gotten the memo that American poetry is in an extinction event. These are poems of immense intelligence and presence as nimble as flames conveying the nearly unbearable intimacy this life demands, threatens and rewards us with.”
—Dean Young

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