The German Connection
Wisconsin poet wins a three-month residency in our sister state of Hessen, Germany
By Joan Fischer
His poems have contemplated such American phenomena as supersize supermarkets and Christina Aguilera. Now Madison resident Matthew Guenette, whose collection Sudden Anthem (Dream Horse Press, 2008) won the American Poetry Journal Book Prize, will serve as an ambassador of Wisconsin letters in Germany. Guenette leaves in August for a three-month residency in Wiesbaden.
Guenette, who teaches writing at Madison Area Technical College, will give readings and workshops, visit schools and talk shop with German writers—but mostly he’ll have time to write. He will receive free lodging and a monthly stipend of 1,000 Euros courtesy of Germany’s state-run Hessen Literary Society.
It’s a pretty sweet deal, and Guenette, 38, is thrilled by the opportunity. “I look forward to working with young writers and sharing some of what I've learned as both an artist and teacher about generating texts and immersing yourself in language play,” he says. “And I also look forward to learning about the German contemporary poetry scene.” In his own writing, he plans to focus on his next manuscript, American Busboy.
Wisconsin has a worthy representative in Guenette. Eminent poet Rodney Jones called Guenette’s Sudden Anthem “a brilliantly inventive debut” and further noted, “A Guenette poem feels ongoing, flung, a creation in the absolute keep of the imagination ... Like every good funny poet, Matthew Guenette is to be taken seriously because he is deeply sane, a writer who cleanses us of pretention and restores our wonder.”
Upon his return Guenette will share his German experiences with Wisconsin audiences through readings and presentations in various venues around the state. “I’m always looking for ways to connect community with writing,” he says. “I fully expect to come back from Wiesbaden with a notebook of new ideas.”
Finalists for the residency were selected through a statewide open application process conducted by the Hessen-Wisconsin Writers Exchange steering committee, a group of representatives from the Hessen-Wisconsin Society, the Wisconsin Arts Board, the Wisconsin Humanities Council, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of German and Max Kade Institute, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, and the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters. Guenette was chosen from three finalists by the Hessen Literary Society in Wiesbaden.
Guenette is the third Wisconsin writer to participate in the exchange. Previous winners were Paula Sergi, of Fond du Lac (2005) and Deborah Bernhardt, of Baraboo (2007). In alternate years, Wisconsin hosted German writers Julia Wolf (2006) and Stefan Rehberger (2008) for three-month stays at the Edenfred creative arts residency in Madison courtesy of the Terry Family Foundation. The writers’ exchange is part of Wisconsin’s sister state partnership with Hessen.
by Matthew Guenette
Christina Aguilera has a blue
tongue. That scream you hear when you drop her in
boiling water is actually just steam
escaping her shell. She invented the word
agnostic in 1869 because she was tired
of being called an atheist
by Baudelaire and Mallarmé.
To wit: she is the only platinum singer who, at room
temperature, acts as a liquid. The odds of her being injured
by a crowbar are somewhere around 13%, yet in
coal mines that percentage rises to a whopping 75. The word
Aguilera actually means dreams
with one eye open, while the word itself tastes like cream,
which tastes like beetles, which tastes
like apples, which tastes like worms,
which tastes like sleep deprived. You
cannot fold Christina Aguilera in half more than 7 times, yet in
Iceland it is against the law to keep her as a fire
arm. Ditto Siberia and in a Boeing 747. When her wires
kink and cannot be straightened by a team
of skeptics, this is called dog leg, which she sings beautifully of in
a number of her hit songs, including Dirty, I Got Trouble,
Slow Down Baby, What a Girl Wants, The Way You
Talk To Me, as well as in her cover version of Word
To Your Mother by Sir Vanillus Ice.
Aguilera is the longest single syllable word
in English, and the only one that rotates on its side
and counterclockwise. As the youngest
Pope ever, (11 years old), she instituted one slot machine
per every eight citizens in Vegas.
Contrary to popular rumor, she keeps her heart in
her head like a shrimp or a pregnant goldfish. In
the Animal Crackers cookie zoo she appears
as 15 different animal shapes, including a herd
of red blood cells, lighting bolts, and the Nobel Peace Prize.
It was said she trapped the wind like a tired
man. The HOPE radio station in Sweden continually beams
her lyrics into space. A bylaw in Utah
bans her from unionizing or having sex with a man in
a moving ambulance. Or so it would seem on her
coat of arms, which reads: In the beginning was the word...
give me your tired, your poor, your huddled Aguileras yearning to be free.
Copyright © 2008 Matthew Guenette All rights reserved
from Sudden Anthem
Dream Horse Press
Reprinted by PortalWisconsin.org with permission