Matt Pasca just can’t keep himself from writing. “There are the stolen moments, stopped at a STOP sign talking into my phone, on the plane…” Writing is how the Long Island teacher, poet, editor and reading series curator interacts with the world and how he seeks to build community.
“Really, I write to discover what I’m thinking and feeling,” Pasca said.
Pasca chatted with Pulse about his latest poetry collection, Raven Wire, published this March by Shanti Arts and the Bay Shore poetry series he runs with his wife, Terri Muuss, called “Second Saturdays at Cyrus Chai & Coffee Co.”
Long Island Pulse: Your first poetry collection (A Thousand Doors) came out in 2011, was the plan always another book?
Matt Pasca: I thought when I was done with A Thousand Doors it would be a while and the opposite was true. I think a lot of artists have this experience when they are done with a project, they think they’ll take a break but what it really does is create space for new things to come, and in the next 15 months I really wrote most of Raven Wire.
Pulse: What’s different this time around, and what will people who read A Thousand Doors notice about Raven Wire?
Pasca: Well, I hope they notice I’ve grown as a writer. I think my focus is more acutely outward this time around. There’s still a lot about being a father, love poems to my wife and poems about my past, but the tone and tenor of the collection is how the self takes in the external world. We live in an increasingly pre-packaged world of bias and sound bites and we are expected to like or dislike things. Instead of that I’m interested in focusing on the truth beneath, which is our complex interaction with the world.
Pulse: Tell me about the title, Raven Wire, what does it mean?
Pasca: I teach mythology and there’s this story about the Norse god Odin seeking wisdom and understanding. He becomes the god of poetry but one of the ways he gains wisdom is he has two ravens and they travel around the world and bring back information in the form of thought and memory. For me the myth encapsulates the notion that there’s an art of listening and attention and stillness that is required to create art. Raven Wire is in many ways about the connection we can develop to the information all around us.
Pulse: Describe the collection in Raven Wire for us, what are a few poems we should look for?
Pasca: I wanted to write a title poem, I was always envious of people who wrote title poems. “Raven Wire” uses Odin and raven imagery. It’s about us as people and artists trying to stay connected to something true regardless of what’s thrown at us in TV advertisements and flashing lights.“To the Landlocked” is a poem written to those who do not live near water; it attempts to communicate intangible truths about life on this island, living so close to the sea.
Pulse: What draws you to poetry versus some other form of art?
Pasca: For me poetry makes the most sense. I love the idea of a poem being a singular project or sculpture of how words move around silence. You have a page of nothing and then every decision you make creates an experience for the reader. It’s very intense and intimate if done well, and I like the challenge of creating a universe, articulating a truth and connecting with a person in a short amount of time.
Pulse: You’re a high school teacher, husband and father…how do you balance it all with writing and completing the book?
Pasca: A lot of people ask my wife and I how we do it, we have two children, we’re active parents, we have a poetry series we run, she directs plays and has a private practice. But really the two of us are excellent teammates. We take care of our marriage and our connection and that helps us do everything else. The pragmatic answer is we have a very large calendar, and we have a planning session before every week.
Pulse: Tell us about the poetry series, how did it come about and what can we expect if we go?
Pasca: My wife and I love to do things together. We dig each other endlessly. There are so many poetry events on Long Island but there’s not much on the South Shore and we wanted to use our connections to build community, which in suburbia is difficult to do but necessary.
It takes place the second Saturday of each month from 7-10pm, free of charge. We have two features, normally poets, sometimes fiction writers. They have 15 to 20 minutes and then we have open mic, 20 slots, they normally all fill up. It’s just a wonderful environment.
Pulse: What’s next for you? Should we expect another collection?
Pasca: I need to write, it’s a fundamental way I interact with the world and myself so I have lot of material, but it’s my wife’s turn. We take turns, so she’s working on a manuscript and I’m supporting that and working on promoting Raven Wire. We’re also curating and running workshops and performing our own work at a variety of venues so there’s a lot going on. I certainly have some manuscripts on the horizon, though!