A series of intimate and captivating interviews by Rachel Zucker with poets and artists about quotidian objects, experiences or obsessions, Commonplace conversations explore the recipes, advice, lists, anecdotes, quotes, politics, phobias, spiritual practices, and other non-Literary forms of knowledge that are vital to an artist’s life and work. One feels, when listening to Commonplace, the pleasure of eavesdropping on the kind of unexpected, intriguing connections that only happen when interesting people sit together in a small room and talk about their real concerns and ordinary lives.

Episode 43: Airea D. Matthews

Episode 43: Airea D. Matthews

Rachel Zucker talks with Airea D. Matthews about her new book, Simulacra, and about (not)understanding, poems as places to show what you (don’t)know, reading, poetry as a place to ask questions and have a conversation, ordering a manuscript, getting help with a manuscript-in-progress, burning a manuscript, kicking the voices out of one’s head to find one’s voice, self as relatable through the other, representation, the connective tissue of humanity, helping a reader become accustomed to uncertainty, kitchen-sink stew, a nervous breakdown, the psychiatric ER, writing in series, strangeness, the canon, different kinds of lineage (Anne Sexton, Gertrude Stein, Wittgenstein and others), the role of biography, not writing about race, how to signal race to the reader, not writing about motherhood, the unknowability or secrecy of motherhood, growing up with liars, the difference between lies and secrets, hunger, weakness, not idealizing mental illness, mothering yourself, worrying about being a good enough mother, gender, loving across difference or sameness, and what Airea is working on now. The first half of this episode is a recording of a question-and-answer session in Rachel’s class; the second is the conversation just between Airea and Rachel that they recorded later the same day.


Books by Airea D. Matthews

Simulacra (Yale University Press / Yale Series of Younger Poets, 2017)

Other Books and Writers Mentioned in the Episode

Anne Sexton

Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons (Dover Publications, 1997 reprint)

Carl Phillips (as a poet and as the editor of Yale Younger)

Carl Phillips’s essay “A Politics of Mere Being”

Leonora Carrington


Jean-Paul Sartre


Bertrand Russell

Rachel McKibbens’ Blud (Copper Canyon, 2017)

Paul Celan

Anna Ahkmatova

Amiri Baraka

Robert Hayden


Jean Baudrillard

Roland Barthes

Adrienne Rich



Descent of Alette

Episode 44: Matthew Zapruder

Episode 44: Matthew Zapruder

Episode 42: Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Episode 42: Gabrielle Calvocoressi