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About this poet

Matthew Olzmann was born in Detroit, Michigan. He received a BA from the University of Michigan–Dearborn and an MFA from Warren Wilson College. He is the author of Contradictions in the Design (Alice James Books, 2016) and Mezzanines (Alice James Books, 2013), winner of the 2011 Kundiman Poetry Prize. Olzmann has received fellowships from the Kresge Arts Foundation and Kundiman, among others. He teaches at Warren Wilson College and lives in North Carolina with his wife, the poet Vievee Francis.

Replica of The Thinker

By the doorstep of The Museum,
the Duplicate is frustrated.
Like the offspring of a rock star or senator,
no matter what he does, it’s never enough.
He only wants to think dignified thoughts,
important thoughts, thoughts that will imprint
like an artist’s signature on the memory of mankind.
But it’s difficult, because when he thinks,
his head is filled with iron and bronze,
not neurons and God.

I too, feel like that.
You know how it works when you make a photocopy
of a photocopy? The original fights to be seen
but appears blurred in each new version.
Each morning, I sit at the kitchen table
the way my father must’ve years ago.
I’ve got my oatmeal and coffee,
my newspaper and blank stare.
                                                  The Replica

digs his right elbow into his left thigh,
his chin into his right fist, and then he thinks
as hard as his maker will allow. He tries to envision
patterns among celestial bodies, the mysteries
of Christ, X + Y, crossword puzzles, free will.
The expression on his face:
somewhere between agony and falling asleep.

Yet he holds this pose
as if no one will notice what frauds we are,
as if some world around him is about to make sense,
some answer has almost arrived. Almost.

Matthew Olzmann, "Replica of The Thinker" from Contradictions in the Design. Copyright © 2016 by Matthew Olzmann. Used with the permission of Alice James Books, www.alicejamesbooks.org.

Matthew Olzmann, "Replica of The Thinker" from Contradictions in the Design. Copyright © 2016 by Matthew Olzmann. Used with the permission of Alice James Books, www.alicejamesbooks.org.

Matthew Olzmann

Matthew Olzmann

Matthew Olzmann is the author of Contradictions in the Design (Alice James Books, 2016). He lives in North Carolina.

by this poet

poem

Most likely, you think we hated the elephant,
the golden toad, the thylacine and all variations
of whale harpooned or hacked into extinction.

It must seem like we sought to leave you nothing
but benzene, mercury, the stomachs
of seagulls rippled with jet fuel and plastic. 

You

2
poem

You whom I could not save,
Listen to me. 

Can we agree Kevlar
backpacks shouldn’t be needed

for children walking to school? 
Those same children

also shouldn’t require a suit
of armor when standing

on their front lawns, or snipers
to watch their backs

2
poem

“Because it is so dense, scientists calculate the carbon must be crystalline, so a large part of this strange world will effectively be diamond.”
—Reuters, 8/24/2011

Like the universe’s largest engagement ring, it twirls
and sparkles its way through infinity.