It’s A Book Thing Presents: An Interview with Matilda Young, co-author of I (want to) love you, Baltimore
Author’s Bio: Matilda Young (she/they) is a poet with an M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Maryland. She has been published in several journals, including Anatolios Magazine, Angel City Review, and Entropy Magazine’s Blackcackle. She enjoys Edgar Allan Poe jokes, not being in her apartment, and being obnoxious about the benefits of stovetop popcorn.
Deliah Lawrence: What inspired you to write your book?
Matilda Young: This spring, I was selected as one of Yellow Arrow’s 2022 Writers in Residence. I had the privilege of collaborating with three amazing writers and the great team at Yellow Arrow. The chapbook came together around the theme of Catrice Greer’s fabulous poem “I Want to Love You, Baltimore.” I think of our book as a complicated love letter to a complicated, lovely city. I’ve learned so much from Catrice, Arao, and Amy. It was such a joy to be part of this true fellowship of writers, and I am so grateful to Yellow Arrow for the opportunity.
DL: How do you handle writer’s block?
MY: I have a couple of tactics. One of my favorites is to do a poetry marathon. Inspired by Tupelo Press’s 30/30 Project, I write a poem a day in April. Since 2020, I’ve been inviting other poets and writers to join me. I encourage folks to share the opportunity with their friends, so I’ve gotten to write alongside poets and writers I’ve never met before. I share a brief prompt for each day, and we all share what we write each day in a giant, sprawling series of google docs. The time pressure helps me be generative, and I get so inspired and fired up by my collaborators.
DL: What was the best writing advice you’ve ever been given?
MY: My favorite writing advice comes from one of my favorite poems,“Berryman,” by W.S. Merwin. The young poet asks how you can know if anything you write is ever good. And Berryman responds, “you can’t you can never be sure / you die without knowing / whether anything you wrote was any good if you have to be sure don’t write.” I find this ultimately really liberating. It reminds me to focus on the process and the joy I find in writing and letting go of expectations – mine and other people’s.
DL: If you were hosting a dinner party which three authors would be your dream guests and why?
MY: I’d love to sit down with Ross Gay and Aimee Nezhukumatathil. I admire them both as individual writers, and they wrote a wonderful collaborative chapbook about their gardens. I want to hear about their process, what they’re writing now, and what they’re growing. I will cheat and say I’d invite two other poets I know to join us, Sara Burnett and Rachel Carstens, who are my first readers, my writing cheerleaders, and wonderful gardener poets themselves.
DL: What tips would you give to aspiring writers?
MY: Don’t get discouraged by rejection when you start sending stuff out. It will likely happen a lot. I like the “try to get 100 rejections in a year” goal which some brilliant person on the Internet suggested. If you need to take a break from sending stuff out for a bit, that’s totally fine! But don’t get daunted or deterred. Just keep doing great work and sharing it with the world.
DL: What do you like to do when you are not writing?
MY: I love rock climbing, going on walks with friends, baking, and dancing. I love seeing people perform, and I love performing as well. What keeps me going is the connections I have with friends and family and my broader communities.
DL: What are three things you can’t live without?
MY: Good company, good books, and good cheese.
DL: Would you like to share an excerpt from I (want) to love you, Baltimore?
MY: Sure, here you go:
At an exhibit on Kyoto at the Met,
My young friend Alice told me
how artists will take broken
shards of porcelain, misfired,
fractured by table corners
and wrong footedness, and make
them whole again with lacquer
mixed with heated lines of gold.
Who am I then – in the story where
I stayed, commuting nowhere,
Baltimore with a window that opens
in grudging inches, aches that never go
away in that bad ankle on a cold hard
Tuesday at 3 am. Across from a parking
lot where the tow truck’s lights gleam
in steady patterns, ambulances’
visitations, still unfixed, cypresses
baring themselves to December,
cartilage clacking in the cold.
At the Met, the gleaming stag stood
before us at the heart of the exhibit,
transformed into a messenger
whose element was mirrors, rows
of ornaments impossibly lit within.
I wanted to run my hands
over the glass. I wanted to be
the person who believed in repair,
DL: What new projects are you currently working on?
MY: I’m currently working on a chapbook called Women and Other Monsters. I love writing persona poems, and I’ve written a lot from the perspective of women monsters, villains, and anti-heroes. In these poems, I get to be someone else for a bit. And I get to explore ideas around myth, gender, queerness, history and more.
DL: Where can readers learn more about you and purchase your book(s)?
MY: Readers can get more information here:
DL: Thanks so much for being here with us today. I know my readers will enjoy getting to know you and your work.
MY: Thanks so much! Greatly appreciate the opportunity!