To a Fraud Whose Work Has Come to Be Canonical

Now all the lies are told
go public and seek praise
as prizes now unfold
like afternoons on days
dishonor schemes in groves
and shame lurks in the eyes
and lips can only love
a self which they contrive.

Born to charm and born
for easy triumph, turn
this way and like some
weeping thing amid a field
of bones, anthologize despair
and cry at last Forlorn!
because in all this barren yield
there is no living air.

by John Matthias

If you are around Oxford this weekend, the Poetry Centre warmly invites you to attend our performance poetry event on Sunday 17 June at the Old Fire Station. It features six leading local voices: George Chopping, Paul Askew, Tina Sederholm, Alan Buckley, Jennifer A. McGowan, and Vahni Capildeo. We also have a guest headlining act: Rose Solari. Tickets will be available on the door or in advance from Find out more about the event and some of the poets taking part by visiting our new Poets in Oxford page.

‘To a Fraud Whose Work Has Come to Be Canonical’ is copyright © John Matthias, 2011. It is reprinted from Collected Shorter Poems Vol. 2 by permission of Shearsman Books.

Notes from Shearsman:

John Matthias was born in 1941 in Columbus, Ohio. For many years he taught at the University of Notre Dame and continues to serve as poetry editor of Notre Dame Review. He has been a Visiting Fellow in poetry at Clare Hall, Cambridge, and lived for much of the 70s and 80s in East Anglia. His books of verse include TurnsCrossingNorthern Summer, A Gathering of Ways, Swimming at Midnight, Beltane at Aphelion, Pages, Working Progress, Working Title, New Selected Poems and Kedging. He has also published translations from the Swedish, editions of David Jones’s work, and a volume of literary criticism, Reading Old Friends. In 1998 Robert Archambeau edited Word Play Place, a selection of essays on Matthias’s work.  Another book of essays on his poetry appeared in 2011 in the Salt Companion series, edited by Joe Francis Doerr. In 2011, Shearsman Books also published his essays in Who was Cousin Alice? And Other Questions. His collected poems are being published in three volumes, with the Collected Longer Poems slated to appear in October, and the Collected Shorter Poems Vol. 1 in 2013. You can watch John Matthias reading from his shorter poems at UC Berkeley here (his reading begins at around 10:30).

Shearsman Books is a very active publisher of new poetry, mostly from Britain and the USA, but also with an active translation list. You can learn more about the publisher here, and find Shearsman on Facebook.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.