Jan Matthews

Hush (Sundress Publications, 2012)

What are some of your favorite chapbooks? How did they influence your writing or your desire to make a chapbook of your own?

My husband’s The Pony Express may be my favorite, but I didn’t read it, in the right way, until Hush was already published. The beauty of his lines are my greatest inspiration, as they are here with me every day. And, of course, there are others.

What’s the oldest piece in your chapbook? Or can you name one poem that catalyzed or inspired the rest of the chapbook? What do you remember about writing it?

“Purple Heart” is the oldest. I remember the lamps. I was at a friend’s house and she had these lamps — the bases were these beautiful sculptured women. I knew when I saw them that they needed to come alive in a story.

I’m also a reservist in the Army, and sometime in my writing the military will come in, but always quietly, as quiet as Lonnie Lee.

What’s your chapbook about? How is it similar to or different from your earlier work?

Love. The difficulties of marriage and relationships. The loneliness of being in a relationship. Most of my writing concentrates on relationships, between husband and wife, mother and child, between friends. I have roughly forty short-short pieces, but these seven focus on husbands and wives.

What have you done to promote and publicize your chapbook?

Probably not enough. I also have a poetry collection, It Would Be Quiet, and I have done readings in the area, Asheville, Knoxville, Nashville, TN (The Southern Festival of Books), Lexington, KY, and when I do, I read from the chapbook as well. It’s an e-chap, and it’s free, so that helps.

What are you working on now?

I just finished a long story in verse, A Pretty Place To Mourn. The story is about my five greatest fears that take on life as five beautiful women. To “kill” my fears, these women, I hire a doctor who promises the women beauty, freedom, happiness, with a little red pill. They become addicted. The red pills sort of vacuum the women away from the inside out. You’ll have to read it to find out what happens.

Have you ever written a fan letter to a writer? What did you/might you say?

I haven’t, though I write letters a lot, to my grandmother, to friends. But, if I did, it would be to Anne Carson. I’m crazy about Autobiography of Red; it was my inspiration for A Pretty Place To Mourn. “The Glass Essay” may be my favorite piece of writing. I would probably be too intimidated, when writing, to say anything right, or intelligent.

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Jan LaPerle (Matthews) is from a small town in northern New Hampshire. She lives in East Tennessee with her husband, Clay Matthews, daughter, Winnie, and dog, Morty. She has poems and stories in Pank, Rattle, BlazeVOX, Subtropics and other places, too. She has an e-chap of flash fiction, Hush, published by Sundress Publications and a poetry collection, It Would Be Quiet, from Prime Mincer Press.

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Hush

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Knotweed

For Theresa Sneed, the hardest part about living inside the walls was not being able to sing. Her voice was prettier than the springtime wildflowers at the edges of the countryside, and keeping quiet was much more difficult, even, than stifling the cries of her little son at her breast. Theresa lived in the walls for two years. Her husband, Sam Sneed, woke every morning and loaded himself onto the bus, never hearing the birds sing, and always wondering where his wife had gone.

When Theresa first disappeared the authorities looked everywhere, at the houses of relatives, local hotels, but after a few months they moved on to cases with more immediacy. Theresa entered the walls through a hole Sam had made long before with his hairy arm, a hole that had been covered with a photograph of their wedding day. She stayed in the walls, snuck through the house, but never dared the yard where the knotweed grew. For the first few years Sam cut those weeds every week, sprayed poison down their hollow throats, and the weeds shriveled a little, but always grew back. After a while Sam gave up, and the weeds grew to be as big as the oak that had been standing in their yard for over a hundred years. Sam and Theresa’s fights had been like those weeds.

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