Crozet poet Charlotte Matthews read from her recent work, both poetry dealing with her confrontation with breast cancer and a memoir of her young life, at The Lodge at Old Trail’s Third Thursday speaker’s series August 20. She is the author of two poetry collections, Still Enough to Be Dreaming and Green Stars, both from Iris Press, and her third book, Whistle What Can’t Be Said, is forthcoming from Unicorn Press. She also teaches in the Bachelor of Independent Studies Program at U.Va.
Copies of Wendell Berry’s poem “The Peace of Wild Things” had been placed on chairs, and Matthews had the crowd read the poem aloud with her to start her talk.
“Poetry has the wonderful pretense that what we are hearing is not meant to be overheard—which is different than listening to a secret,” Matthews said.
Her in-progress memoir, titled Universal Lost and Found, “is not the whole life, but the parts picked out that could matter,” she said. The passages she read dealt with her mother’s dissatisfaction with life and her discovery of lying at age eight, when she fell in a diving accident and a lifeguard replied to her question of whether she was bleeding by saying “no.”
“Lies distort the world,” Matthews said.
She described her father’s unexpected death from a heart attack at his office desk at age 41 and how she went to school the next day as if the world had not changed.
She said she discovered she is a poet, “because I sucked at everything else. I wasn’t that good at anything, but I could write and I wrote a lot.”
She said poetry is important because it can express things that can be contradictory, such as light’s nature as both a wave and a particle.
“I feel the world we live in—if you’re awake to it—is full of reasons for writing.”
Why Humpty Dumpty Fell
There were three girls jumping
double dutch on the blacktop below
him, and he looked down because
even their voices sounded nimble.
This made him remember the way
His mother sang him to sleep at night,
each star in the sky reliably framed
in a hexagon from their wire coop.
He fell because, like all of us,
he wanted to know if someone
would care enough to try
to put him back together again.
–by Charlotte Matthews