Release Party: Poet Matthew Freeman’s The Boulevard of Broken Discourse
by Jenny Beatrice, Walrus Contributor
In 2004 Matthew Freeman came out of the self-proclaimed “poetry closet” and burst onto the St. Louis poetry scene. Known for his gritty realism, raw honesty and off-beat humor, Freeman exposes his struggles with schizophrenia against the backdrop of St. Louis’ urban landscape. His numerous publications include The Dogtown Poet, Desolation on Delmar, Darkness Never Far. He is also the anthologist of Walrus Publishing’s Flood Stage: An Anthology of Saint Louis Poets.
On January 23, poets, fans, and friends gathered for at Duff’s in the Central West End to celebrate Freeman’s latest offering, The Boulevard of Broken Discourse, exploring the difficulty of navigating and making peace with his mental illness. In Boulevard, his fourth published collection, Freeman’s images flow freely from the halls of the ward to the streets of the city, stringing together palpable longings, deep questions, and everyday occurrences.
Notable pieces from his selected readings included:
His Eyes: “well put me on the roof, you said, the music therapist’s hot but she ain’t no Beckinsale. I’m some type of bird, perhaps a quail.”
I Know What Girls Know: “I had to become the ugly friend—I owed that much to the universe.”
Degree to be Conferred Upon Paranoid Schizophrenic: “Tried and convicted, I was sent down to create something beautiful that made no sense.”
Freeman also read the standout piece “The Four Causes” in recognition of the anniversary of his mother’s death. It poignantly concludes: “I bussed it back and broke into our freezing old house and played my guitar in the basement, then on the first floor, then in the attic; it was a trick I learned to send my mom to heaven.”
Proudly sharing the spotlight, Freeman invited some of the poets whom he credits as being his support and inspiration to read their work, making the event a true celebration of the best of St. Louis poetry.
Mary Ann de Grandpre Kelly, Flood Stage poet and board member of the St. Louis Poetry Center, kicked off the showcase by introducing us to her rich characters of both the canine and imaginary persuasions. Another Flood Stage poet, Julia Gordon-Bramer, offered frank introspections on the woes of the common cold, the challenges of a difficult professor, and the poetic grace of the aloe plant.
Kim Lozano, contributing editor at the renowned River Styx and board member of the St. Louis Poetry Center, weaved images of love and loss with her rememberings of long-standing trees, Aunt Alma’s bathroom and the discovery of her grandfather’s letter from a mental hospital. Vincent Casaregola, St. Louis University professor of English and film, served up an assortment of works including an academic speculation on how to make Hemmingway happy, an “Ode to Spam” that made the crowd happy, and a series of medical “Case Study” monologues.
“Without these people, I wouldn’t have been able to write this book,” Freeman says. “Mary Ann is a bright light of encouragement. Julia is an aura of personality and invention. Kim and I rose together on the poetry scene, and Vincent was my teacher and mentor. I’m just so excited to have my friends reading with me.”
Yet Freeman’s sincere humility comes in second to his genuine talent. “There’s always something new coming from Matt,” says Kelly. “His work is so energizing.”
Purchase The Boulevard of Broken Discourse at Coffeetown Press.