Happiness and Poetry

ZapruderWhat makes you happy? Is it watching re-runs of NCIS all weekend, gardening, kayaking, or cooking authentic French cuisine?

Everyone has that specific “thing” that offers a taste of pure happiness, that waking up every morning worthwhile. For Matthew Zapruder, Saint Mary’s new assistant professor of English, leaving the world of dreams and waking up early in the morning to drink a warm cup of coffee while he writes poems for a few hours is his taste of pure happiness. As a new member of the Saint Mary’s family, he hopes to bring his passion and love for poetry to his students and the community.

Zapruder brings an extensive poetic background to the English Department and the MFA in Creative Writing program. He has four published collections of poetry, including his most recent collection, Come On All You Ghosts, and this spring Sun Bear will hit bookstores. His work has appeared in Paris Review and The New Yorker, among others, and has received numerous honors, including the William Carlos Williams award.

Not everyone finds poetry to be an easily digested art form. Some of the creative choices poets make can leave readers feeling like they are not quite in on the secret poetry lingo. Zapruder is aware that such poetry can be inaccessible, and that’s something he keeps in mind when he writes. “I want my poems to be for anyone and everyone,” he says. His mission is to show people the power and beauty of language.

“I love words. I love thinking about words and their possibilities,” Zapruder says. He finds inspiration in language and even in his collection of old typewriters and old dictionaries. He calls language “the most powerful instrument humans have ever created” and explains that for him the magic of poetry is in the unexpected interaction of the meaning of words and the experience evoked by the language itself—through rhyme, sound, metaphor or associations. In this interaction, readers feel they are “finally grasping something that was elusive, just out of reach of language, for a moment.” The end result is what he calls “the poetic state of mind.”

And he believes that state of mind is something everyone should experience. “Through the poem,” he says, people can make contact with “some necessary level of understanding about life that would not have been possible without the poem, or poetry.” It is in this mindset, and in these poetic moments, that Zapruder finds his happiness. “A poem,” he says, “is a machine for producing the poetic state of mind.”  

Read about Matthew Zapruder's interest in typewriters.