Matt Hart Is Not Afraid to Go Deep.
When discussing motivation, or empathy, or the pure punk rock power of a kick-ass poem, Matt is not afraid to get involved, to shed a tear, to raise his voice. And that’s why The Distiller wanted to talk with poet and teacher Matt Hart. We thought this discussion might involve some passion. We were not disappointed.
Matt joined us on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon on Cincinnati’s West Side. For those not from the Queen City, the West Side of Cincinnati gets a bad rap as the “old” side of Cincinnati. Maybe because it’s the more conservative side…the side people grow up in and never leave. But for people like Matt, who put a high value on Place and Commitment, the West Side is the place not to “settle,” but to settle in.
Westside Brewing owners Kurtis & Jim Remmel welcomed us in and served up a samples of their latest brews. It couldn’t have been a better setting for this conversation (Thanks Jim & Kurtis!). We covered a lot of ground, from Matt’s teenage years performing in punk bands (which he still does), to the first poem that really rocked him (Feeling Fucked Up, by Etheridge Knight), to his current job teaching poetry to visual art students as Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Chair of the Department of Liberal Arts at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. Through it all Matt has consistently rejected expectations, and done the opposite of what he was supposed to do.
Over a couple of Westside Brewing Session IPAs, Matt and The Distiller host Brandon Dawson talked about poetry with fireworks, the value of work that makes you ask the right kinds of questions, writing a poem every day of 2017, and the similarities between poets, drunkards, and preachers. We covered the now twenty-five-year-plus history of Forklift Ohio, the poetry journal Matt and a friend still publish in a garage. Maybe best of all, we finished up with Matt reading one of his own poems for us (“Poem with a Chorus by Jawbreaker,” from his book Radiant Companion.)
It’s strong medicine, and not for the faint of heart. And it’s exactly what we needed. We hope you’ll enjoy this conversation as much as we did.