Matt Mason

Matt Mason and Infant ChildMatt Mason’s poetry has been published in over 100 journals and anthologies including Laurel Review, Prairie Schooner, and From Page to Stage and Back Again. Mason participates in readings both locally and nationally, and is co-editor of Slamma Lamma Ding Dong: An Anthology of Nebraska’s Slam Poets, which won the 2006 Nebraska Book Award for Best Anthology. He received his M.A. from the University of California, Davis.

Matt Mason Books at the Backwaters Press

Things We Don’t Know We Don’t KnowThings We Don't Know We Don't Know

Author: Matt Mason
Format: Paperback, 88 pages
ISBN: 0976523175
Published: March 2006

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Awards For Things We Don’t Know We Don’t Know

The Nebraska Book Awards for Poetry & Cover Design 2007

Critical Praise for Things We Don’t Know We Don’t Know

Matt Mason must be declared the Poet Laureate of the Midwest! No other native son celebrates the overlooked America, its unsung citizens (from the anonymous poets to the part-time English teachers), and its expansive indigenous landscape as well as he does. Mason’s poetry is humorous when he wants to be quirky, heartbreaking when he wants to be eloquent, and though he moves effortlessly into other moods and geographies, he always returns to his first and most enduring love (and to what he knows best)—his homeland.
Rigoberto González – Director, National Book Critics Circle

Whether turning his attention to kiwifruit, Wild Kingdom’s Marlin Perkins, the Strategic Air Command Museum, or lovers who with luck may come to resemble a no-expiration-date snack cake, Mason sheds some of his Nebraskan light on our universally human proceedings. And anyone who can actually say, for the poem-record “I believe that aliens built the Pyramids, Stonehenge, / and most of my ex-girlfriends” surely knows, by heart, a few more things we only think we may be better off not knowing.
David Clewell – Author of Blessings in Disguise, National Poetry Series winner

I grew up in Iowa, a couple of miles from the very border between Iowa and Omaha, Nebraska, which meant for in-state tuition I went to university in Iowa, but far from my home. Therefore, I spent many the hour driving Iowa highways, including I-80. Going back even farther, my mother was raised on a farm, and we spent many the weekend driving back and forth the 50 miles from our place in “the city” to Grandpa’s and Grandma’s farm. So I know from Iowa scenery, which is why this poem, in Mason’s new collection Things We Don’t Know We Don’t Know, out recently from Backwaters Press, is my new favorite in a long line of my favorite poems of his.
Angie Kritenbrink “‘The Thin Line of What I Know’ by Matt Mason”

Poems from Things We Don’t Know We Don’t Know


A car leaves Omaha, moving away from you.
If it averages 71 miles per hour, when will it get to Lincoln?
If the car arrives in Kearney in 170 minutes,
North Platte in 261, if it hits Ogalala in under 300 minutes,
does that indicate this is your fault?

At what point will you stop staring West?
What time does the sun set
assuming she gets to Cheyenne at 5:43 Mountain Time?

It’s a shame you can’t use calculus,
algebra, or trig in a situation like this,
as they’re all so handy on the problems
in the book, every one can be solved,
nobody calls anything “Impossible,”
the worst it can be is “Not solved yet.”

And you want to calculate the volume of a feeling
suddenly multiplied by negative one,
want to get to the square root,
find the angle that keeps her happy,
not sit calculating pain to the last digit.

None of this adds, doesn’t even subtract, only divides,
divides as if on a calculator where that’s the only function,
no X, no plus sign or minus, no equals
just That greater than This
where This is a fraction, the graph of a line
diving off the grid, and That is equal
to an imaginary number I thought was my life.

If a man thinks about a woman at 2 a.m. Central Standard, and he paces his
apartment at 2 miles per hour,
at what point does he reach,
at what point does he realize?

The Good News

Tell the good news about Jesus.
—a bumper sticker I followed for a long time

Jesus lent me ten bucks when I forgot my wallet at lunch.
Sure, he could’ve ordered a chicken pesto sandwich
and broke it into two full meals, but he’s no showoff.
That’s what I like about Jesus.

Jesus listens to cool music. If it weren’t for Jesus,
I never would have known about Tom Waits
or Ani DiFranco, and I sure wouldn’t own any Lyle Lovett CDs.
But Jesus makes a kickass mix tape.

Jesus loves cows,
thinks my poems with cows in them are a hoot
and encourages me
to look at herds of white cows
in a green field
and imagine salvation
is underneath each windmill

Jesus tells me Pat Robertson’s right,
and so is Al Sharpton.
That they’re both wrong, too,
but that’s not the point.
His point is how God is sewn into every fabric.
Even yourself. Even Elvis.

Jesus saves and Jesus recycles.

Jesus eats fish for more
than Omega-3 fatty acids,
drinks red wine for more reasons
than his sacred heart.

Jesus doesn’t dress like the Medieval paintings
with the gold hats and the Mr. T rosaries.
Sure, he can clean up nice,
but Jesus likes blue jeans.
Jesus makes a killer chianti,
but he refuses to turn water
into Diet Coke for me.
“What’s the difference?” he asks.

Jesus pisses me off
with his honesty
But it’s not like he’s ever wrong

Jesus acts real serious
when somebody rushes up to him hollering, “Jesus,
take me up to Heaven,
I will see you in the Kingdom, Jesus!”
Jesus says they should get their kumbayayas off
by putting on some overalls
and hammering in the morning:
may as well make Heaven bigger,
not just your ego

Jesus digs the “How does Jesus eat M&M’s” joke.
He won’t do it at a party, but he did do it once
when just the two of us were watching cartoons.

Jesus wanted me to tell you he loves you.
Jesus also wants you to stop doing that thing.

Jesus tells me I’m saved.
Then he laughs real loud.
I hate it when Jesus does that.

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