Matthew Daddona On Personal Mythology & Myth-Making


Today when I looked in the mirror
and saw myself aging with you,
I thought Earth wouldn’t be enough
to contain us both,
but there it is
turning its constant light on,
like the woman next door
who doesn’t sleep
but lives in a period of wakefulness
that your father calls desire.
It is not at all like that woman
I tell him,
the way her axis is always shifting
from one place to the next,
you are almost dreaming her alive.
Sometimes it helps
that the light turns off.
Sometimes we should
wait for the moon
and be forced to choose
between night and day.
I want to make the moon my painting
and string it along for the ride,
this way,
when I’m driving I’d have two moons
and one earth. 
You could call me on my one phone
and complain about the signal.
Have we ever been so close as now,
the fact that losing signal is possible?
The earth has one set of solutions
for contact and the moon another.
Your father has a theory that the woman
never stops desiring,
that all the world’s light wouldn’t be lost
in her hands.
I show him a picture of you, Matthew,
where the moon bobs like a second head,
behind you the trees sift in repose,
plans lay weighted in your hands.
It’s the heaviness that gets me.
Last night the woman never came home
and the light zapped at moths for hours.  
It’s the waiting, too. I think I might shut it off,
if only to feel assured.
Do you feel okay? You are, right?
I know you have so many cards
and that every year is a birthday,
but here’s another,
one more.  

(For K.B.)


Were those decadent symbols,
as Mallarmé said, fatal
ennui?  The mutes of America,
the stars, trees
ask of your devotion.  In Nogent-sur-Seine
France; April 2011
the town’s nuclear plant
rolls its eyes behind its head.
We need you,
Paris needs you
without an atom of doubt.


The former green yards of Orient Park
catechize the Fall of Man.  In Greenport
Winter descended as a lunar moth,
an Orion? 


In the span of nine months,
one letter.  One bud burst
as ink poured forth
then burst again.

The letter C is a consonant of change
and until sea change,
won’t change.  Write:
I see, I see it now.
Then sing me revolution (in French plumage)!
Throw liberty into the bell(e).
I thought, but did not write,
how swift our motives dispense
they scatter like buds on the ground.


To become love,
dress in idiom.
The kids gave you the name Amerloque
and loved to hear themselves say it.
Amorloque.  Amor-ica.
These are the bastardized phrases,
speak them.


I am almost displaced
writing from my riverbed of the Charles.
I lift my sheets above its silk permutations
where it’s known to be,

In a bar yesterday afternoon,
I noted how locals here are
“impervious to sensitivity.”  

Time is killed in jest,
this couplet needs more



This is the waiting game.
Old fog
changed to new rain. 
In a cross-sectional diagram
of the “Cross Sound Ferry,”
my location is a two-dimensional
etching.  I am neither here nor there,
a tenor of the sea.
The ferry of bodies,
who rows and who receives?
Patience is steady, unruffled,
that seagull harbored in optimism,
“Sure, shore.”


I’ve ceded my will
to prospect.  Prospective light
informs perspective.
A wan February
brings heirs of malcontent to their knees;
they are premature children of Spring,
bastard germs of progress. 
Mother country,  
receive or spit them,
“Caw, caw.”


The roof is aflutter.
Michael calls
Starlings, Darlings.
This summer we’ll pitch a tent
as high as their perches
and wait for their aerial calls.
A bomb,
a buzz, a darling is returning. 
Run ashore with news.
Spill the country in blue-
green tide.  It cleanses itself like a fawn,
it keels over. 


Solace is an art form
so long as it muses.
In the effluent passages, mental corridors,
tongue-in-cheek, what’s the word for –
French bread.
It’s how Rimbaud passed time.

In the end,
loneliness appends the act,
lets down its vacant eyes
and stares out. 
“Goodnight world, you’ve been great.
That’s all for me,” it says.

An inner urge, soft as a canary, answers:
“But we haven’t even broken bread.  And –
and there’s still so much wine.”

Q & A with Matthew Daddona and editor Joanna C. Valente

JV: Talk to me about your line breaks. How do you determine them?I’d like to say there is a bit of unconscious processing here, but that would be a lie, right?

MD: Because as much as poetry is instinctive and organic and innate, it’s revised and learned. You work out these kinks upon rewriting the poem, and rewriting many poems over time. So, to answer your question, I think there are two determining factors. One, my mild to lukewarm OCD posits that I keep the lines as controlled and even as possible, which factors into how I “break the line.” And two, the line couldn’t break unless it had reason to, unless it screamed “split me in two, you half-witted hack, do it!” Take this line from above: 

Sometimes it helps
that the light turns off.
Sometimes we should
wait for the moon
and be forced to choose
between night and day. 

The breaks here came to me with speed and gusto, and I invited them in. I think they work because they’re rhythmic and sonic and speak to each other–I imagine “Sometimes we should” responds directly to “…the light turns off,” as in ‘Sometimes we should turn off.’ Line breaks are about bending logic, but never about confusing the reader. Just relocating them for a moment. Matthew Lippman taught me that. 

JV: What would you say is your obsession right now? As poets & artists, we are sometimes defined by these obsessions in our work.

MD: Personal mythology and myth-making. The stories we tell ourselves and each other, and their broader consequences (for better or worse). It’s a big theme in the novel I’m currently writing and in what I like to read. And since I write mostly narrative poetry, I would say that I’m attuned to scene-writing, but also how sounds are able to transport moods and emotion to create new scenes or details, sometimes within a single line or couplet. I see the poem as a virtual diorama. You are propelled through it, but you see each character and object, its origin and its maker, and how they relate to the things that come before and after. But how all are part of a singular unit. 

But I’m interested in other things, too. More banal things: dive bars, dog barks, awaiting the seasons, defying the seasons, trash cans banging in the night, waves never quite touching beach towels, dirty looks, how an adult’s hand looks so big when holding a baby. As far as writers, nobody writes more honestly than James Welch, Carson McCullers, Louise Gluck, and Borges. At least this month. 

JV: You’re from Long Island. How does that landscape affect your poems?

MD: It’s an enormous part of my identity. I often chide New York City (as if it could hear me) because it doesn’t do enough to preserve nature. Beaches, wineries, and farmland are a huge part of where I grew up on eastern Long Island – they’re not just what makes the area wonderful, but what gives its people their identities. I’m very entranced with the idea of how people and nature interact. I hardly see nature as a solitary space. In other words, one would have to go somewhere to see that it’s solitary. I once wrote a poem about a man who witnesses his neighbor beating his wife from across the street. And when the neighbor is eventually led by the police out of his house, the man watching averts his eyes to concentrate on how the snow gracefully falls upon the metal gate, and how this snow reminds him of the tea his wife makes whenever he’s deep in thought. 

The act of violence is circuital, seasons are circuital. I guess the point is that I needed nature, and its splendor, to coexist inside a poem about physicality and domestic abuse. Dammit, Daddona. So, nature is the big things: the ravines and gorges and mountains and landslides. But, it’s the small things too: the pebble that somebody kicks into the ravine; the echo one hears until he doesn’t anymore. 

JV: Who writes your poems—what part of you?

MD: The emotional side. What else is poetry except emotional? Not dripping (gasp) and confessional. But emotional. Emotion, to me, is the unconscious response to logic, which is often as unmatched as Felix and Oscar. Unmatched, but necessary. For many people, emotion triumphs logic, or supersedes it. Is this such a dangerous thing? It can be, sure. But I often think emotion makes us more childlike, and, thankfully, more aware. I want my poems to make points without making them, without being didactic. 

JV: I’ve always felt my poems come alive after they’ve been edited—as if I’m carving a poem, rather than writing it. Would you agree or disagree with this?

MD: I think you know how I feel about this one. I love (lurve) editors. And, being one as well, I love myself I guess. No, that’s not it. I love other people’s eyes and hearts on my work. They are never the same eyes, and they are always the better hearts. I think Steinbeck used the analogy of writing being like a sculpture, working in small sections to carve the finer details and working outward until the sculpture is finished. I’ve always liked that. I think I write poems without using a brush or pencil or pen or fine-tooth comb. I write in my head for weeks. I memorize the verses or lines until I can comfortably host them inside my brain. And then I write. And then I change my mind again.  

Editor's Note: These poems originally appeared on our old site.

Matthew Daddona is a founding member of FLASHPOINT, a jazz and prose improvisational group that has performed at many venues in Brooklyn and Manhattan. He has published poetry, fiction and reviews in The Adirondack Review, Gigantic, Forklift, Ohio, The Southampton Review, The Rumpus, Tin House, Bomb, The Brooklyn Rail, Joyland, Slice, Electric Literature, andTuesday; An Art Project, among others.

In 2011, he collaborated on a chapbook with poet/scholar Tim Wood, using Wittgenstein’s aphorisms as poetic conversation. He is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets prize and a Beatrice Dubin Rose award.

He is currently at work on a novel, as well as a collaborative photography/prose project based on synesthesia.