A Northern Spring by Matt Mauch
Runestone, volume 10
A Northern Spring
by Matt Mauch
Runestone, volume 10
Reviewed by Travis Hendershot
In the intersection of Ireland and Minnesota, where memoir meets poetry in a way that transcends genre, this collection pins personal experiences against the backdrop of societal challenges during the pandemic through its disarming, introspective, humorous, and intelligent exploration.
In Matt Mauch’s newest collection, A Northern Spring, Mauch challenges form and logic as he documents his trip to Ireland during the pandemic and essentially being locked out of his own country, America, leaving Mauch to stand in lines and ponder the weight of being lucky.
“One is lucky, to be sure, to be born, but to whom, where, and when is the thing that determines so much. I think the girl is very nice, articulate, funny even, and not herself to blame for systematic disparities, ever the softy.”
Mauch taps into his own positionality within this world and how opportunity gave him a positive direction to move towards, which pins his own experiences against the systemic issues our society struggles to acknowledge. The topics are heavy and tied to our present moment. Still, the realness from lived experience is lathered in compassion and care. With a clear and consistent voice within this narrative, there is not a moment a reader could feel they disagree with Mauch’s positioning within this world because it feels like a conversation of getting to know someone over dinner.
Mauch beautifully engages the same topics within his poetry, as his poem “Ultimately, god does not deserve to see” introspectively says, “Beautiful woman without an arm, I looked / you in the eye. I kept my bag / on the side I wanted to switch it / away from, where it was digging in. / The mark has gone away / The arm / I wanted to lend out to make you whole.”
How much coldness can we withstand before we decide to move? That’s a question that A Northern Spring aims to answer without ever posing the question. One Friday at 3:59 p.m., Mauch attempts to answer this question as two mates banter about whose climate is harsher: “When we told him we were from Minneapolis, he asked, like a kid, if we were at the “coldest game ever?” It’s a moment that leaves the reader in a state of melancholy as it references the Minnesota Vikings losing a playoff game at home in what Mauch laments that not even that loss was the coldest game ever.
Matt Mauch has found a home in the cold state of Minnesota. He has invested his time in the area by working within the literary community. He founded the Great Twin Cities Poetry Read and Poetry City, an annual journal that accepts submissions. He is also a professor at Normandale Community College, teaching creative writing courses. He has many published books, including A Northern Spring, We’re the Flownover. We come from Flyoverland, Bird~Brain, and If You’re Lucky Is a Theory of Mine.
The blending of prose of preludes and poems shows an intelligent way of crafting dialogue with a stranger: “I have generally found here that a stranger having something to say is an exchange worth the make. There’s good advice, guidance, and humor to be got for free. It’s not at all like home, where the unsolicited exchange is best ignored if not preempted by averting the eyes.” There is no better feeling than locking eyes with this book, and society would be better off if more eyes landed on these pages to glean a new perspective on what it means to be human.
TRAVIS HENDERSHOT is a poet who is recovering from working in manufacturing for a decade.