Ideas Go Only So Far
Last year I made up a baby. I made her in the shape of a hatbox or a cake. I could have iced her & no one would have been the wiser. You know how trained elephants will step onto a little round platform, cramming all four fat feet together? That’s her too, & the fez on the elephant’s head. Applause all around. There was no denying I had made a good baby. I gave her a sweet face, a pair of pretty eyes, & a secret trait at her christening. I set her on my desk, face up, and waited. I watched her like a clock. I didn’t coo at her though. She wasn’t that kind of baby.
She never got any bigger, but she did learn to roll. Her little flat face went round and round. On her other side, her not-face rolled round and round too. She followed me everywhere. When I swam, she floated in the swimming pool, a platter for the sun. When I read, she was my peacefully blinking footstool. She fit so perfectly into the washing machine that perhaps I washed her more than necessary. But it was wonderful to watch her eyes slitted against the suds, a stray red sock swishing about her face like the tongue of some large animal.
When you make up a good baby, other people will want one too. Who’s to say that I’m the only one who deserves a dear little machine-washable ever-so-presentable baby. Not me. So I made a batch. But they weren’t exactly like her—they were smaller & without any inborn dread. Sometimes I see one rolling past my window at sunset—quite unlike my baby, who like any good idea, eventually ended up dead.
Matthea Harvey is the author of three books of poetry, Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form (Alice James Books, 2000), Sad Little Breathing Machine (Graywolf, 2004), and Modern Life (Graywolf, 2007). She was born in Germany in 1973, spent her adolescence in England, and moved to Milwaukee with her family when she was eight years old. She attended Harvard as an undergraduate and the MFA program in creative writing at the University of Iowa. At present, Matthea Harvey teaches poetry at Sarah Lawrence and lives in Brooklyn.
More info and poems on her WEBSITE
I have also found an interesting animated poem read by Matthea on the Poetry Foundation website, called Shiver & You Have Weather , you might enjoy watching it.
Matthea is involved in other projects, and one that really captured my attention comprises a series of five poems written to be read with Philip Glass’s string quartet No. 5.
The Miró Quartet performs Philip Glass’s “String Quartet No. 5” in concert with Matthea Harvey reading a new, 5-part poem inspired by and set to the Glass composition. This broadcast of a recent live performance at the White Pine Festival includes a series of 5 original photographs, also by Harvey, that serve as titles to the movements of the collaboration.
For poem and image titles:
It is an incredible poetical & musical experience, with abrupt syntactical shifts & dark atmosphere, which may also be very inspirational (at least this is the effect it had on me). I am very much attracted by the spooky, beautiful , captivating world of her poems, her sensitive bizarreries and the acceptance of this present-day apocaliptic world, with focus on America’s frustrations, fears, wonders, even simplicity.