There's this wicked cool guy in Boston who just doesn't give up on his dream. Matthew Lippman went from outcast to celebrated author of The New Year of Yellow that won the Kathryn A. Morton poetry prize. Now he is promoting his new book of poetry Monkey Bars, all the while teaching teenagers and raising babies. How does he do it? Let's ask him! (digital photo altering by Lynette Yetter)
You've won a lot of prizes for your poetry. Can you tell us something about those prizes and the work of yours that they are honoring?
Thank you for saying I have won a lot of prizes. I have won a few. It’s always surreal. The big one was for my first book, The New Year of Yellow. I had been submitting my manuscript for 14 years to get my book published and then it finally received the winning prize. The other prizes were just for my poetry, in general, not a book.
How did you get into writing poetry?
When I was fifteen years old I made this conscious decision that I wanted to be a poet. But, I had already made the decision to be a poet when I was six, or so. Language was something that I loved and when I was old enough to be conscious of its power and fun, it all came together for me. It was the summer when I was fifteen, in Vermont. I would go to this dock on Miller Pond with my friend Peter and we would write poems for hours. Then, we’d go have lunch.
Can you tell us more about being six years-old and wanting to be a poet? When I was six, I think the only poem I knew was "Mary Had a Little Lamb". What was your introduction to poetry?
I don’t know if I knew what that meant, I just knew that I loved messing around with language and I was good at it like I was good at playing baseball. I wrote some cool stuff in first grade and it just kept on going from there. I felt comfortable and “at home” writing, even when I was that young.
What is your day job?
I am a high school English Teacher. I teach Literature, Expository and Creative Writing. I also run my own on-line Poetry One-to-One Courses. I run eight week courses with individuals on the art of writing poetry. (Here is a shameless plug for my business. My website is www.matthewlippman.com)