Sand Paper Press

Collected Poems of Harry Mathews

February 14, 2020


Harry Mathews (1930–2017) was among the most inventive and unorthodox writers of his generation.

His novels earned comparisons to Vladimir Nabokov and Thomas Pynchon and bear the mark of one who learned “never to settle for results that are merely reassuring.” But Mathews was a poet first, and he prized poetry for its transformational and redemptive power.

Collected Poems: 1946-2016 gathers seven prior collections, together with poems never before published in book form. Poems dedicated to John Ashbery, James Schuyler, and Kenneth Koch show Mathews’s origins and commonalities with the poets of the New York School. Others reveal his obsession with the puzzles that animate the Oulipo, the famous French group of writers and mathematicians, in which Mathews was long the sole American member. But Mathews’s work transcends these affiliations. His maverick avant-gardism is all his own, nourished by wellsprings of romanticism and metaphysical fervor, in dialogue with literature, music, and art from the medieval to the modern period.

For Mathews, it was “much more interesting to be curious about a riddle than to find its solution.” His ability to fuse the world of facts with invented wildernesses of his imagining will give readers much to untangle, while his sensuality, wit, and affection for life’s beauties, sorrows, and absurdities offer their own rewards. Collected Poems: 1946–2016 augments and clarifies the extraordinary achievement of a singular American writer.

Praise for Harry Mathews’s COLLECTED POEMS: 1946-2016

Collected Poems gives us the full range of Harry Mathews’s marvelous poetic genius over 70 years. The artistic intelligence that created this work is staggering. It’s as if Mathews constructed each poem to be a music box with a spinning figure on top, not of a ballerina but of your mind, and before you know it you are transported to a place where, as one poem says, ‘classical euphoria glitters into us.’”
—Ron Padgett

“Like an actual visit from Harry, these poems sometimes squeeze your hand, other times bemusedly pat you on the knee, and often poke at your assumptions. Like a great dancer or a talented acrobat, they conjure up an invisible arc from his brain to yours—and that arc glows like a rainbow. Be forewarned: If you attempt to leave the room, Harry will do whatever it takes to lure you back.”
—Ann Beattie

“You get the wild feeling that the person writing these words has absorbed every possible musical register, from the plain-spoken to the highly mannered to the sonorous and symphonic to the cacophonous. Mathews is a rara avis whose works are marvelous and inimitable. This gathering will stun, stump, enchant, dazzle, and puzzle his most ardent fans, and delight anyone who opens themselves to its unforgettable music.”
—John Yau



Preface by Arlo Haskell
Introduction by Daniel Levin Becker
Cover art by Trevor Winkfield

Publication Date: February 14, 2020
$28.00 | 304 pages

Deluxe Paperback: French flaps, gloss stamping. Index, Bibliography, Appendices.

Trim Size: 9.25 in H | 6.5 in W

ISBN: 978-0-9843312-8-4

Library of Congress Control Number: 2019949453

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Sand Paper Press
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