Interview with Lucian Mattison

Lucian Mattison is the author of Peregrine Nation (The Broadkill River Press, 2014) which won the 2014 Dogfish Head Poetry Prize. His work appears in FLARE, Bodega, The Boiler, Everyday Genius, Hobart, Muzzle Magazine, and Spork, among other journals, and has received Pushcart Prize nominations. He edits poetry for Green Briar Review and Barely South Review. To read more visit lucianmattison.com

Mattison pic

FLARE: Tell us a little about yourself.

Mattison: My mom was from Argentina and my father is from the United States. My father always travelled a lot, he grew up in Alabama and then joined the Navy. We had been moving my whole life, kind of moving around between the U.S., Singapore, and Argentina for as long as I remember. 

FLARE: What was that experience like for you growing up?

Mattison: To some extent, it just makes you more adaptable. I never really felt tremendous connection to any one place, so one thing I had to keep doing was making new friends and new homes.

FLARE: Do you think that experience has impacted your writing at all?

Mattison: I mean, of course, I think it does. This first book I just had published was kind of centering around that idea. I’m writing about a place that is a home away from home. Whenever I go back to Argentina, it’s always familiar but always a little foreign. That’s something I’m accustomed to at this point. I think it also helps me to see things from an outsider’s perspective as well, where you’re always kind of on the fringes, but at the same time, a part of it. It just allowed for a more witness-based mentality.

FLARE: What is your source of inspiration?

Mattison: Pablo Neruda is one of those poets who makes things feel effortless, even though it’s really well-crafted and it’s really well thought out. The way he writes makes it seem like it’s off-the-cuff when really he’s been revising and trying, but it just feels effortless, light, and beautiful. I find that very inspirational, and makes me feel like I should be striving to have that same quality to some extent whenever I write. 

FLARE: What was it like winning this award for Peregrine Nation?

Mattison: It was a really big shock, actually. I was working on my thesis for my Master’s, and it was actually this manuscript and I was gonna take it into my Master’s year, my third year, but I was kind of sending it out under a different title and it got rejected in a couple of places and it was a long time coming. I’d been working on it for three years. When I first starting working on this series, I was living in Chile, and I was teaching English. They had a lot of riots going on at the time, so it was kind of hard to not write about what you were seeing. Then I started bringing in my family, my experiences in Argentina and abroad, and brought in the concept of being an outsider-inside. That’s where this manuscript came together. It felt really good, I never imagined to leave my Master’s program with a book already, cus that was one of my goals. It kind of just blew me away, honestly

FLARE: What are you working on right now?

Mattison: I’m compiling and sifting through poems that I feel would go best together in another book. Where Peregrine Nation was more memory based, these poems are more idea driven, and less narrative driven.

FLARE: What is your greatest accomplishment?

Mattison: Publishing this book. I had a goal to publish before I finished grad school. Next to graduating, I’d say that’s right up there.

FLARE: Where do you hope to end up?

Mattison: That’s a good question. I don’t really know. I’m moving up to D.C. after school, and will be kind of moving out of academia I think for maybe a year or two, just to kind of position my head on my shoulders a little more stably. When you’re in college, there’s a certain way of thinking and a way the world works, and I kind of want to break out of that. And I want to work on publishing another book. I just want to focus on writing out of academia. 

FLARE: If you could be any literary character for a day, who’d you be and why?

Mattison: For a day?

FLARE: For a day. Just to try out their shoes.

Mattison: (laughing) Uhh, hmm, that’s a good question. I recently finished reading this book Death With Interruptions by José Saramago and he portrayed the character of death as the stereotypical hooded figure we think of, but it had a personality and fell in love with this cello player, so maybe that would be an interesting character to embody for a while.

FLARE: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Mattison: I think it’s important to trust yourself. Especially when going into a market that has a lot of people telling you how to write, it’s important to hold onto what makes your writing interesting and unique. Choose your critics and only listen to them so much. The only person who’s going to benefit is you: no one else is writing your writing. Also, READ.

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