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About this poet

Born in Germany on September 3, 1973, Matthea Harvey spent the first eight years of her life in Marnhull, England, before moving with her family to Milwaukee in 1981. Later, she earned her BA in Literature at Harvard University and an MFA at Iowa Writers' Workshop.

Harvey is the author of Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form (Alice James Books, 2000), Sad Little Breathing Machine (Graywolf, 2004), and Modern Life (2007), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, a New York Times Notable Book of 2008, and the winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. She is also the author of the children's book The Little General and the Giant Snowflake (Tin House Books, 2009) and Of Lamb, a collaboration with artist Amy Jean Porter (McSweeney's, 2011).

Poet Dean Young has called Harvey's poems "marvelous contraptions .. that explore and present artifices in the best sense, as disclosures of fabrication into plays of significance…and [are] always ravishingly complex." Jorie Graham describes Harvey's work as "generous, urgent and savingly committed to beauty."

Harvey is a contributing editor at jubilat and BOMB Magazine and has taught at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Warren Wilson College, the Pratt Institute, and the University of Houston. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College.

Introduction to the World

Matthea Harvey, 1973
For the time being
call me Home.

All the ingénues do.

Units are the engines
I understand best.

One betrayal, two.
Merrily, merrily, merrily.

Define hope.	 Machine.
Define machine.  Nope.

Like thoughts,
the geniuses race through.

If you're lucky

after a number of
revolutions, you'll

feel something catch.

From Sad Little Breathing Machine by Matthea Harvey. Copyright © 2004 by Matthea Harvey. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. All rights reserved.

From Sad Little Breathing Machine by Matthea Harvey. Copyright © 2004 by Matthea Harvey. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. All rights reserved.

Matthea Harvey

Matthea Harvey

Born in Germany in 1973, Matthea Harvey spent the first eight years of her life in Marnhull, England, before moving with her family to Milwaukee.

by this poet

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The Backyard Mermaid slumps across the birdbath, tired of fighting birds for seeds and lard. She hates those fluffed-up feathery fish imitations, but her hatred of the cat goes fathoms deeper. That beast is always twining about her tail, looking to take a little nip of what it considers a giant fish

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The photographer has been treating her like a spork all morning. “Wistful mouth, excited tail! Work it, work it!” He has no idea that even fake smiling spreads to her eyes and her tail and there’s nothing she can do about it short of severing her spine. Without asking, the assistant re-sprays her with glycerine. It

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Rain fell in a post-romantic way.
Heads in the planets, toes tucked

under carpets, that’s how we got our bodies
through. The translator made the sign

for twenty horses backing away from
a lump of sugar. Yes, you.

When I said did you want me
I meant me in the general sense.