Matthew Tierney Explain's Poetry's Enduring Appeal in an Interview with Black Coffee Poet

Matthew Tierney talks to Black Coffee Poet about his gruelling writing process, his exhilarating travel adventures, and his optimism about the future of poetry. He also dispenses some advice for the kids.

Tierney's The Hayflick Limit is available from Coach House:

Black Coffee Poet: With people having much shorter attention spans these days do you see poetry having a comeback?

Matthew Tierney: Poetry is in its happy place, as far as I can tell. I’m told the eighties (for e.g.) were horrible for poets. So first we should consider how good we have it. Poetry’s already come back and it’s wearing a tuxedo T-shirt.

Reading poetry takes more attention than populist forms of entertainment. If people in increasing numbers are reading and writing poetry (I’ve no hard data but it sounds like a “fun fact”), then it’s likely because it has an intellectual and emotional pull not found in the Cineplex or on your PVR. Poetry’s gravitational constant is just higher.

I’d be much more concerned if I were a literary novelist. Those long-running HBO shows are damn good. But as I said there’s nothing out there like poetry. For the individual drawn to it there are no substitutes and hence no competition.

BCP: You are working on your third collection now. What have you learned since your first collection? How do you think you have grown as a poet?

MT: I’m better. It’s not even important I’m right but if I don’t believe I’m better then all is lost. Though that happens sometimes too. Lost is ugly.

There are specific ways I’ve grown. The only ones I feel safe articulating, the ones that’ll hold till my next anxiety attack, are these: I’m a keener reader than I once was, I work harder and award myself fewer flights of self-congratulation, and I know when to abandon a poem.

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