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Quotes, Comments, & Excerpts:

Fontana's Mirror
Boss Books: 1982
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with Drawing by Gail Schneider
Privately Published: 1988
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China Beach
Station Hill Press: 1989
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“Matlin's China Beach is a poem—a series of poems—that goes like all real poetry, all the way, to give us a political/mental/visceral mapping of the fate of America, its people, & the other worlds on which it has impinged in the course of our lifetimes. The poetry/history combine that marks the best side of the American poetry here finds a new & unrelenting voice.”
Jerome Rothenberg

“David Matlin is one of the most original and haunting of the young American poets.”
Helen Adam

“Matlin's poetry: Unremitting particular powers of the human long before it got lost in the junk—where a bird can still sing it.” —Robert Creeley

“...scary, brave, sad stuff, like the head of an unsuccessful window-suicide, talking up at you from its smashed body on the ground.” —Woodstock Times

Dressed In Protective Fashion
OtherWind Press: 1990
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“Matlin's work is not a comfortable 'read'—in fact it is not a 'read' at all—but an initiation, possibly, into the predatory condition of one's own vitality. It is a poetry that bears witness to the occluded stain of violence across American life, local and historical; its means are an ear that is tense and accurate, and an attention, particular, conscientious, and cleansing.”
Charles Stein


How the Night is Divided: A Novel
McPherson & Company: 1993
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“The desert landscape that dominates the consciousness of Matlin's narrative comes fully alive; mystical mysterious, haunting, it makes us believe the mythology it's inspired... a great achievement, and a beautiful powerful book.”—Irini Spanidou, author of God's Snake

“Its sense of place is dead to rights.”—Kirkus Reviews

How the Night is Divided implants a whole network of insights into the relations between the races, into the Spanish origins of modern Southern California, into the role of Jews in the film industry and above all into the paranoid persecution of free agents by McCarthyite investigators. Matlin has discovered an hallucinatory mix of dreams, myths, folktales and exacting factual realism. His hero, Tom Green, moves in and out of the farmer's troubled world, with its origins in Old Europe, and always he reminds the reader of our stake in the preservations of nature's bounty. This is a novel of a new consciousness and energy, by turns lyrical and tough, historically factual and magically timeless, touching, comic and deeply concerned about the consequences of human curiosity.”
Angus Fletcher

“There are unforgettable scenes in How the Night Is Divided; haunting images that almost scorch the printed page.”—Washington Post Book World

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Vernooykill Creek
SDSU Press: 1997
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“...Wonderment and horror reverberate throughout the mind, the one with lucency and the other in shadow, an incapacitating opacity, perhaps: what David Matlin calls 'traumatic obscurity' and 'toxic consequence' (see Fanny Howe's review of Vernooykill Creek) and Jonathan Cohen, 'destructive beliefs' ("When Psychoanalysis Fails"). There is a paradox here worthy of our attention: if the marvelous may be informed and animated by the monstrous, the monstrous leaves the marvelous no air, no light, no room. Yet Matlin's experience teaching poetry to men in Hell demonstrates the truth of Bachelard's conviction: Poetry is one of the destinies of speech. ”—Rikki Ducornet, American Book Review

“Matlin's outstanding work of nonfiction...tackles the subject of the 'correctional facility,' a world that the author demonstrates is rapidly encroaching on our putatively free space. ....that such sobering sociology can read with all the grace and passion of imaginative fiction is Matlin's great accomplishment. ”—Eric Lorberer, City Pages

“...a lyrical diatribe against forces that conspire to make American hypocrisy incarnate , a paradox of mythic proportions, a world leader of incarceration (read: vengeance) while claiming to be leader of the free world.”—S.P. Healey, Rain Taxi

“ impassioned and informed attack on the American prison system that has already attracted high praise from Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn.”—Michael Perkins, Woodstock Times

“In David Matlin's devastating account of his ten years as a teacher in the New York State Penal System... This book, which brings to full force Matlin's many years as a poet and novelist, describes an ever-evolving system that will only be deconstructed through a violent collapse of all social structures around it, or patiently, step by step, over decades.”—Fanny Howe, Focus

A Halfman Dreamer
Poetry New York: 1999
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Prisons: Inside the New America: From Vernooykill Creek to Abu Ghraib
North Atlantic Books: 2005
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“David Matlin's book on New York State's prison system is an American classic. It situates the penitentiary in the landscape of the unconscious and the nature of the absent creator who is all mountain and prairie. Gnostic, strange, alienated, anxious, the Person in this narrative enters the Prison with no capacity to resist its reflection of the majestic power of the wilderness outside. This Person enters the prison as a teacher who only learns what he would rather not know. Abu Ghraib is discovered to be one more in a chain of imperialist warehouses for extra people. The book is one of the most excruciatingly credible responses to the new America that I have read.”—Fanny Howe, novelist and poet

“...a really impressive piece of work, which captures with wrenching vividness the torture we inflict on others, and ultimately on ourselves.”—Noam Chomsky, scholar and social critic

“David Matlin's Prisons is an eloquent and powerful rumination on his experience teaching in prison. It goes beyond his personal story to put into sharp and disturbing perspective the larger problem, so cruelly handled in our society, of crime and punishment.”—Howard Zinn , historian

“There is no way to plumb the depths of degradation and despair of the hell of our current prison system, but Prisons is a brave attempt to describe the indescribable. Based on ten years' experience teaching in prison, with a poet's awareness of the subtleties of the English language, and with the passion of one who is consumed by the injustice of what he has seen, this book gives insight into the hearts and minds of inmates and the incredible cruelty of the system that holds them. The assumptions and expectations of state and Federal governments, and of the corporations reaping the rewards of 'privatization' of the prison system, are virtually unchallenged. This is only possible in a nation that has already lost much of its sanity and is in danger of losing its soul.”
Larry Durgin, The Catskill Bruderhof

“This is a serious and important book written by someone who has seen the inside up close as few have been able to do so. The observations and insights revealed by David Matlin offer serious guidelines for understanding prisons and criminal justice. The book must be read by anyone who seeks the real deal on prison life.” —Eddie Ellis, President of Community Justice Center, NYC

It Might Do Well With Strawberries
Marick Press: 2009
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“David Matlin is that dangerous thing, a writer's writer, which usually means only discerning readers come to his pages. But they are richly rewarded, as anyone will be who is lucky enough to discover Matlin's work. It Might Do Well With Strawberries is full of magic, of prophetic insight and the rough knowledge of living with mind and heart wide open in our benighted new century. This volume is a journal that is not just a captivating diurnal record, but one transformed into a profound literary meditation that will endure."– William O'Rourke, author of Notts and Criminal Tendencies

“What if the art forms have so solidified as to be irrelevant to defy our political present? This question is one that so haunts David Matlin as to make his writing adequate to the monstrosity of our waning democratic years and days. It Might Do Well With Strawberries contains all the components---poetic concision, political outrage, journalistic detail, self-fashioning, and a long historic vision---that make it possible to speak of language as public space: a critical wager of the imagination."–Roberto Tejada (Professor Dept. English and Art History, University of Texas, Austin)

David Matlin holds a presence of mind uncontaminated by the nullity of this bewildering political era in which torture, deceit, trickery, brutality and war are the status quo that many of us uphold, obsessed as we are with the solace and comfort promised by the dream of America, which has become a nightmare too unbearable for most of us to face. Matlin is unwavering. Instead of collapsing into despondency he confronts the collision of violence and imagination so rampant in this culture gone awry. Instead of retreating into uncertainty, he writes the fury of the world as it presents itself to him -- a conflicting forcefield of horror and sublimity, chaos and clarity. It is rare to read the workings of a mind so braced against the ominous drift. But Matlin reveals the simultaneity of living and thinking through the complexity of what can be known and what has been realized. He scours the newspapers and maintains the relentless practice of always observing and recording. It's often easier to look away. But with Matlin as a guide, perhaps we can begin to conceive an image of what Matlin, citing Robert Duncan, calls 'Vital Living apart from the threatening conclusions which surround us.' "–Kristin Prevallet (Poet, St. Johns University, NYC)

A HalfMan Dreaming
Red Hen Press: 2012
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“At its simplest this is a story of a Mexican-American kid grown up under the shadow of the atomic bomb, trying to find his way out of the maze of violence and racism of the desert of post Second World War southern California. But this is a novel that aims to be more than a novel and risks being less than a novel as Lupe embarks on a quest that takes him through history, archaeology and mythology in his search for the ground of his own and America’s violence. Anyone who has noted the dark stain spreading through our contemporary world will conclude it was worth the risk."David Antin, Poet, Critic

"In A HalfMan Dreaming, David Matlin activates the American unconscious, probing landscapes and memories that are tender, frightening, and unforgettable. Through a kind of literary genetic exploration, Matlin illuminates the origins, the journey and the condition of the American continent and its peoples." Junior Burke, Editor, not enough night

"Matlin's astonishing new novel, A HalfMan Dreaming, is a book unlike any other. Moving back and forth across time and space, synthesizing vast quantities of scientific, anthropological, and cultural materials, Matlin dreams into existence an apocalyptic storyline that takes his narrator, Lupe, from a childhood encounter with the Enola Gay on the edge of the Californian desert, to the Mekong jungles of the 60s, to the streets, bars, and factories of Detroit. Unsettling in its poetic intensity and flaunting of novelistic conventions, and often frightening in the ferocity of its depiction of America's voracious, seemingly insatiable blood lust, Matlin's novel also movingly depicts one man's struggle to move outside the derangements of history.." Larry McCaffery, Editor of Storming the Reality Studio and After Yesterday's Crash: The Avant-Pop Anthology


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