For Matt Mason, words of poetry come from listening to his impulses and feelings. Mason isn’t afraid to write any ideas wherever the opportunity shows up.
“It’s a little bit of everywhere, to find as much silence as possible,” Mason says. “I’ve got two kids and when they were young, I wrote a lot of poems with a child in one arm and a pen in the other. I have also written a lot of poems at fast-food restaurants. That’s a place where I could be for 15 minutes with nothing else going and having that peace.”
Mason says putting words in the shape of a poem helped him open a doorway to understanding his feelings and what those feelings mean.
“I have books out, and have done well with poetry, but the success is secondary, ” Mason says. “I would be writing poetry whether anyone was reading me or not, because poetry makes my life better.”
In 2019, Mason earned the title of Nebraska State Poet, a five-year appointment. One of his major projects involves doing one poetry event in all of Nebraska’s 93 counties.
As an advocate for the art of poetry, Mason understands how his accumulated influence can be used for the greater good.
“It’s become cliche at this point but the old Spiderman adage of “With great power comes great responsibility” is something that I think everyone needs to understand,” Mason says. “We all have our own influence and powers in this world to help others. It’s an unfair world in so many ways unless we all do a little bit to contribute. I have been given extra chances; if I’m not giving back, what am I doing?’”
For Mason, reading and writing coincide with each other. He finds inspiration through reading poetry and other literary works.
“Poets tend to be good listeners, reading other folks exposes you to their ideas and their vocabulary,” he says. “Even if I read a poem I don’t like, I may end up writing poems of the same theme just to see if I can do it better.”
When Mason isn’t reading or listening to poems, he is teaching. He has worked with the Nebraska Writers Collective youth poetry program, allowing students to work on poems and present their works. Mason says he loves to hear students’ concerns and life experiences.
Consistency is the number one point Mason tries to teach other creative writers.
“To get better as a writer, the first thing you do is write a lot, the second thing you do is read a lot, and then trying not to worry about what you think a poem is supposed to look like, or what it’s supposed to do,” Mason says. “Reinvent what poetry is and write it.”
Mason’s poetry has earned awards such as the Pushcart Prize, one of the most esteemed prizes for literature. Mason says he appreciates the recognition.
Mason has also traveled to countries such as Botswana, Nepal, Romania and Belarus to hold poetry workshops. He works with the students to address issues and find the right voice. Mason says it’s an honor to show the best of American literature and writing.
Mason says he enjoys working with students in other countries and finding common ground within the study of poetry.
Throughout his career, Mason isn’t afraid to work outside the box. He enjoys adding texture to his poetry through sound effects, comedic timing and cadence.
“What I want to do is give people something they are not expecting, I want them to leave thinking poetry is more entertaining than they thought,” Mason says. “I want to give a mix that makes people feel different ways. It’s about not being rigid but rolling with it.” ◆