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Main People My place: Matthew Dickman, all-American poet

My place: Matthew Dickman, all-American poet

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Written by Vivian McInerny   
Tuesday, September 06, 2011

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Go home with Matthew Dickman, writer of poems and keeper of the world's meanest cat.

2011OctNov_MatthewDickman
Photo by Jon Jensen

WHERE HE LIVES: One unit in a 1940s four-plex in Northeast Portland with “Ralph, the meanest cat in the world. I’m not kidding. The entire world,” where he writes poems for literary publications including The New Yorker and Tin House.

WORDS’ WORTH: The main room has glass-fronted shelves of books, a desk littered with more books and, on the walls, broadsides, limited edition printed poems by some of his favorite poets. The room “is like a big song.” 

WIT MAN: A red vintage button-back loveseat is a castoff from a failed romance. Better a loveseat than a love child. “It doesn’t cry.”

THE DESK: Friend and fellow poet Mike McGriff “had a lot of extras of giant things like Cadillac cars and desks,” so loaned Dickman one in 2001. “I think it looks like something that would be a on a ship.” 

ODDITIES: He wonders about the inner lives of polar bears, the beauty of hotel soaps, and the party incident behind a cryptic apology in a circa 1910 letter a friend found and framed for him, that now hangs in a writing nook. “It says, ‘I promise I’ll never try to speak French to you again.’ Doesn’t it make you wonder? What went on at that party?”

LIGHT MOMENTS: Copper lamp and chess game timer are from poet Carl Adamshick. “Do I play? Well, I lose.” The two get together weekly for “pints and poems.”

SHELF LIVES: Vintage cabinet was a garage sale score; newer ones were bargains picked-up while working at Kitchen Kaboodle. These days he pays the bills with poetry, book sales, writing workshops and tutoring aspiring poets. His book, All-American Poem, won 2008 American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Award.