Matthew J. Spireng is the author of two previous full-length books of poems: What Focus Is, WordTech Communications, 2011; and Out of Body, winner of the 2004 Bluestem Poetry Award, Bluestem Press at Emporia State University. His chapbooks are: Clear Cut, a signed and numbered limited edition of his poems and photographs by Austin Stracke on which the poems are based, privately printed at Hampden-Sydney College, 2010; Young Farmer, 2007, Finishing Line Press; Encounters, 2005, Finishing Line Press; Just This, a signed and numbered limited-edition chapbook of his poems and photographs by Trey Price on which the poems are based, privately printed at Hampden-Sydney College, 2003; and Inspiration Point, 2002, winner of the 2000 Bright Hill Press Poetry Chapbook Competition.
Since 1990, his poems have appeared in hundreds of magazines and in anthologies across the United States and have been recognized in numerous national contests including as winner of The MacGuffin’s 23rd Annual Poet Hunt Contest in 2018 and the 2015 Common Ground Review poetry contest for “Good Work,” the title poem of this collection. He is also a 10-time Pushcart Prize nominee.
A resident of Lomontville in rural upstate New York, he holds an M.A. from Hollins College (now Hollins University) in Virginia and is a retired award-winning journalist.
Cover The Gleaners, Jean-François Millet
In his fine new book, Good Work, Matthew J. Spireng writes of putting up wet hay, “Inside bales the heat builds/… [J]ust one is enough/for spontaneous combustion to/bring down the barn/in flames.” Of chopping down an oak tree he writes, “There’s no way to tell before cutting it/just how old it is. But you know it’s huge/and it’s old.” Spireng’s good eye and restless curiosity consistently make the physical reveal its figurative dimension. Contemporary literature needs a term for poems based on careful and imaginative observation powered by a spirit of exploration; I offer Spirengian.
– Suzanne Cleary, author of Crude Angel (BkMk Press, 2018); winner, John Ciardi Prize for Poetry, for Beauty Mark (BkMk Press, 2013)
For many years, in many poems, Matthew Spireng has watched the world and himself with close and patient attention. In poems arising from farming, or logging, or writing and reading, there are strong portrayals of failure and success, danger and safety, or doubt and certainty. One source of the richness in this book is that you have to wait for each poem to tell you, in a given case, which side of the question might be better. It depends on the feeling, which Spireng gets profoundly right time after time.
– Henry Taylor, author of This Tilted World Is Where I Live: New and Selected Poems, 1962-2020 (LSU Press, 2020); winner, Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for The Flying Change (LSU Press, 1985)
Walt Whitman said he regularly found letters from God dropt in the street, and, in like manner, Matthew Spireng finds poems every day in everything he comes across. He is the bard of the quotidian. One of America’s most prolific and widely read poets, his poems ─ with their honesty, their good humor, their unruffled craft, their interior tension ─ bring, one by one, page by page, to each reader a new dawning of perception.
—R.H.W. Dillard, author of Not Ideas (Factory Hollow Press, 2014); winner O.B. Hardison, Jr., Poetry prize and Hanes Award for Poetry