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Dickinson Poetry Series: Marybeth Mattson

Marybeth Mattson

Growing up with a family full of musicians and artists, Marybeth Mattson fell to poetry as a way to set herself apart. A graduate of UW Green Bay, she majored in creative writing, dabbled in fiction, but always returned to poetry as a second home of sorts. It was at college that she became enamored with slam poetry and spoken word, following recordings and You Tube videos of Taylor Mali, Rives, and Saul Williams, whose poems leapt from paper and became living, breathing things through the nuances of cadence, inflection, pitch and volume.

While at UWGB Marybeth served as Poetry Editor for the Sheepshead Review journal of the arts for two semesters, engaging her classmates in lively discussions resulting in the acceptance or rejection of students’ poems for publication. This experience taught her to appreciate the purpose of poetry as much as the art of it. The purpose of poetry, she believes, is mysterious and obvious all at once. A poem may be meant to instigate conversation, to bring forth truth in new light, to bring about change, or maybe just to give the poet an excuse to yell or curse. Perhaps a poem is only meant to give the poet an outlet for pain or joy, or to share it with others. Marybeth prefers to hear what others believe the purpose of her poetry is.

Marybeth was also influence greatly by her poetry instructor at UWGB, former Wisconsin Poet Laureate Denise Sweet. From Sweet she gleaned insight on reading and reciting for impact and emphasis, and learned that sometimes a poem is never finished. “She showed us the world in a wooden bowl, and gave us five minutes to capture it. That kind of exercise,” she says, “ taught me to reserve judgment on my own work, as well as others.”

In 1987, an insightful and strange four year old Marybeth told her mother, “when you dream, your reflection goes out of you into your dream,” a sentiment not lost to her today.  “If we cast our reflections into our art, our poetry,” she says, “we can better see ourselves through the impact we are able to have on each other.”

Though she has written enough poetry to fill several chapbooks, she has yet to publish one. “Some poetry,” she says, “is meant for the eye, and some for the ear – my poetry is for the ear.” To that end, she has recorded several of her own pieces, and intends to release a ‘chapdisc’ instead.

Marybeth’s reading will include new and not-so-new poetry and perform spoken word pieces, as well as an original song or two to bridge the gap between lyrics and poetry, at the UU of Door County at 7pm on Wednesday, Dec. 14th, 2011. Open mic participants are encouraged by Marybeth to take a crack at Slam style poetry – reading is still acceptable, just give it some attitude! For more information and to listen to recorded songs and poems visit