August 14th, 2017DYLAN WARD, US REVIEW OF BOOKS
"…If my poems could curl into your lap, I’d let them."
Reading Pasca’s writing means reading between the lines—at what is being hinted at, of what is not being said. Mainly, he asks of us: Are we listening? Some of his poems require several careful readings. They are erudite, meditative, and lyrical. Themes stem from his own life, while others reflect on events or moments of history with wide-ranging impact on any of us throughout generations. His work touches on familial relationships, blessings, violence, privilege, music, and literature. They are articulate with an exceptional control of language and symbolism.
In “6,000 Rounds Off the Internet," Pasca laments the violence of mass shootings and the ease at which one may obtain the tools to inflict horrific harm. “The Old Ball Game" is a nostalgic piece on one of America’s favorite pastimes. “What Men’s Words Are For" ponders the relationship between fathers and sons and how they weaken over time. And in one of the best and more compelling poems in the collection, “June First" celebrates the beginning of summer days.
The meaning behind Pasca’s chosen title recalls Odin’s ravens—Huginn (Thought) and Muninn (Memory)—from Norse mythology. Odin had a thirst for wisdom, and his ravens circled the world to collect ideas and reflections. Pasca does exactly this, reflecting deeply on a range of subjects from all parts of the globe. His book is broken into sections based on Huginn and Muninn, with poems carefully pieced together for each part. He exerts a mastery of the poetic form, and it is clear his writing is elevated to an entirely different level. A winner of the Eric Hoffer Award, Pasca’s book proves its writer is deserving of our attention.
June 28th, 2017BRI ONISHEA, author, editor
From PATERSON LITERARY REVIEW, Issue 45, 2017-2018, pp. 268-270
Matt Pasca’s poetry tells stories. These are not the types of stories typically found in novels—epic romances and love triangles, great unsolved mysteries, or hero-driven adventure sagas—but you will find that you snuggle up with them nonetheless. These are the types of stories that we tuck ourselves in with at night, the tiny details of daily existence which, when combined, comprise the larger story of our life. Pasca’s poetry is reminiscent of chasing fireflies and capturing them in a bottle, if each firefly was the glow of an instant caught mid-flicker. Enthralling the reader with the ordinary, Pasca captures simple moments that otherwise might be overlooked or considered mundane and, using his mastery of craft, polishes them to luminescence.
Like his first book, A Thousand Doors (2011, JB Stillwater Publishing), Raven Wire is modeled around a mythological theme: in this case, the tale of the Norse God Odin, whose thirst for knowledge manifested itself in his two pet ravens, Huginn and Muninn. Representing Thought and Memory, respectively, Huginn and Muninn were tasked with traveling across the world, returning each evening to their master with an earful of the experiences, feelings, and ideas of the inhabitants they encountered. Inspired by this, Pasca takes readers on a deftly written journey through thought, memory, and finally, reflection.
The first section, Huginn: Thought is rife with political and social commentary. In “A Car Is Not A Gun," Pasca tackles the harsh reality of gun violence with eloquence and an unforgiving straightforwardness that sucker punches straight to the gut—his commentary on the all too often heard argument that cars also kill people.
mothers to neon crescents
of sliding glass, taxis drop
lovers at the show and coffins
drive high-beamed mourners to
quake in the wind around a hole
made by a bullet
Pasca doesn’t shy away from tough topics, touching on everything from white privilege to ignorance, world travel to home life on his native Long Island. While poems such as “The Exact Location of Africa" and “Icon-O-Plastic" are infused with sarcasm, Pasca—an educator by trade—also has a gift for turning intimate snapshots into pivotal teaching moments, as in “Walking Around Monaco":
near Tampa, my son, six, asks
Are we almost there?, his little
brother floating between
sleep and nausea. 56
minutes, I say, battening
down catastrophic thoughts.
His impatience ebbs…
56 minutes, he says,
is how long it takes to walk around
the whole country of Monaco,
did you know that?
Family plays a constant and important role throughout this collection, which travels forward and back through space and time. Muninn, or Memory, begins with recollections of childhood, highlighting the comforting familiar as evidenced in “Happiness, 1979":
Mostly it’s about
the Muppet Show:
eight o’clock, head
on mom’s chest; she is warm
and powdered like
a baker’s dough stone
against the painful nostalgic, seen in poems like “Museum of the Heart" and “Spittle,":
When I gather your bones
and reconstruct you
in my heart — hands of glue,
limbs of paper scaffold —
it is laughter I am chasing,
the tight-ribbed boom you
hammered — nail of joy
through the air.
Here is where Pasca’s work truly shines, as he walks us through snippets of life in all its harsh but forgiving realness. There is resentment and love, particularly contrasted by two opposing views of fatherhood—the speaker as son maturing into the speaker as father. Both past and present coexist here on parallel planes, in many ways yearning to cross.
The last section of this collection, entitled Odin’s Gift, is essentially a reflection of thought and memory, a cohesive wrap up of our journey. Odin’s Gift, it is explained in the introduction, was a gift from the God in the form of poetic inspiration, and again, we are shown these beautiful instances of family, childhood (both that of the speaker and that of his sons), and a brilliant insight and awareness of the world. Pasca reflects on perspective, shows us “Eight Ways of Looking at Washington" and reminds us about gratitude in “Calculations Over Subway." We see time is passing in “Gibran’s Shoulder"—inspired by lines from a poem by Kahlil Gibran—and “June First":
Our baby is almost five. He eats olives, knows the difference
between ride, crash and hi-hat cymbals and says things like Daddy, imagine
we are on a chessboard and I am a pawn and you are the knight.
And still, despite the tick of the clock, Pasca has managed to mason jar these moments for us, urging us to reflect upon our own lives. Yes, time is passing, but have you stopped to admire it? Will you live in its glow? Will you, like Odin, yearn to know more, appreciating the finitude of our universally shared experiences?
This is a poetry collection for anybody who appreciates connectedness, from the optimist who understands nothing is trivial to those who may need a little reminder.
July 11th, 2016JANET K. BRENNAN, author, publisher
In this extremely personal collection of poetry by author, Matt Pasca, RAVEN WIRE takes us from memory, dreaming time in space, to present. This book, which is aptly titled, is a modern glimpse into the writer’s heart and soul. Before we get to see just who this poet is, we must understand who he was, and Pasca has no reservations about letting us know about his formative years. One quickly understands that although not bad, these years were typical; however Pasca quickly realized that he did not fit into a “typical four sided box." This poet jumps the frame as he describes what he observes in the daily buzz and life styles of modern families. In Icon-O-Plastic he writes:
“He came from a bouncy house on a street lined with bouncy
trees in a town that bounces from the map-tulips from
a magician’s pocket. Mom pulled a bouncy childhood
from her bunny hat, dad a bouncy scholarship from
an ace-stacked deck. He was desperate, you see."
Pasca writes this book with a keen sense of mastery of the poetic form. It is candid and straight to the edge, taking the craft to a level that I seldom see in writing. One’s reader always seems to know if something is not being said. Matt Pasca, in his own understanding of his life and destiny, does not disappoint. The deeper into the writing one goes, the reader understands that this is a book about watching, listening, and interpreting the multitude of experiences that bombard the senses every single moment. What can we learn? How do we utilize these things to make changes in our lives?
As we follow him into his status, we are given glimpses into a life as husband and father. Pasca captures the joy and wonder as he finds himself growing with his children. Life is not simply about advice and demonstration; rather tasting and seeing the new that surrounds our lives every single moment, indeed with every breath taken. He has determined that his life with his wife and children – his colleagues, politics and traveling will be a collaborative project of learning from one another.
My favorite poem in RAVEN WIRE is June First, Page 85 – stanza 1:
“Our baby is almost five, He eats olives, knows the difference
between ride, crash and hi-hat cymbals and says things like Daddy, imagine
we are on a chessboard and I am a pawn and you are the knight.
He likes spotting leaves at the bottom of our uncovered pool,
its murky depth slowly morphing to emerald. He bends close – “
And then this in stanza 5:
“At night, he and his brother breathe down
the hall, sleep to a recording of ocean waves. My wife and I
hold hands atop the sheets, windows open, the legs
of crickets rubbing through the room–“
RAVEN WIRE is an intelligent, well-crafted, often metaphoric book of poetry. This writer has reached out to show through his enlightening words the importance of paying attention to those things which surround us and yet are not always seen.
I am honored to review this brilliant book, RAVEN WIRE. Matt Pasca has a very special gift, like few others, he is able to reach in and touch his soul.
February 15th, 2016G JAMIE DEDES, blogger, poet, editor of BeZine
Matt Pasca, an American poet, teacher and speaker, is someone to watch. His work is refined, ambitious and precise. It exposes an intimacy with mythology, history, music and literature as well as a keen eye and ear for the complexities and pains of our post-modern times.
Matt demonstrates a sensitivity to the moral responsibilities of the artist and all human beings and an appreciation of social insults and human frailty that is intelligent and compassionate and able to be transformed by beauty. His work is not trite or cheapened by sensationalism or voyeurism. It invites one read and reread to fully appreciate it.
The name of the book is a reference to the Norse god Odin’s ravens, Huginn and Muninn, thought and memory. The collection is divided into two sections, one for each category.
"So… artists, I humbly submit, in addition to craft and toil, [we must] maintain a vigorous and sacred practice of Listening, becoming a receptacle that extends into the universe, hoping to return with something true. It is not Odin's ring, spear, or death-defying feats I wish to spotlight here, but his practice, our tether as humans seeking compassion and connection, wonder and wisdom…" - Raven Wire
January 28th, 2016NAOMI SHIHAB NYE, author of Transfer, Fuel and 19 Varieties of Gazelle
Matt Pasca writes poems so tender and well-tuned they recalibrate the muchness around us. Has there ever been a better loving poem than Dreammates? Or a kinder homage to coffee making or a more observant father taking on Gibran’s line that haunts parents forever? The poems in RAVEN WIRE, acutely cognizant of blessings and disappearances, are whole, humane and stunning. They clarify and illuminate our lives.
January 27th, 2016GEORGE WALLACE, Writer-in-Residence, Walt Whitman Birthplace
Matt Pasca has built a compelling body of poems, and in this generous collection shares what he has learned. The poems in RAVEN WIRE take flight to destinations far and wide, from the Rio Grande to Mexico and from Pompeii to the subways of New York City. But as rich as this tapestry of place is, it is the geographies of the heart that offer the greater reward.
January 27th, 2016MARIA MAZZIOTTI GILLAN, American Book Award winner for Writing Poetry to Save Your Life
RAVEN WIRE is a beautifully crafted book of poetry; it is a celebration of the sound of language as it delves deeply into family connections and the losses of the world through death and war. This is an amazing collection.
January 27th, 2016LIZ ROSENBERG, poet and novelist, author of The Laws of Gravity and The Moonlight Palace
Matt Pasca's poetry is beautiful and humane—full of humor and tenderness. To read RAVEN WIRE it is to enter a whole world.
June 24th, 2011KENNETH A McCLANE, W.E.B. Dubois Professor of Literature at Cornell, author of "Walls" and "Color"
A THOUSAND DOORS is a fine collection of poems... I have been delighted again and again. The book's music is omnipresent and Pasca has a wonderful sense of line. But most important, there is wisdom aplenty. The small (in lineation, that is) poem that celebrates his love for his son, for example, is not only heartfelt but every parent's sentiment if he or she could write well. This is why we turn to poetry to see ourselves. And Pasca has argued mightily for us.
June 21st, 2011VERONICA GOLOS, author of "Vocabulary of Silence", winner of 2011 New Mexico Book Award for poetry
A THOUSAND DOORS is fully a book of love. That is, the poet finds - inside the alphabet, between the sheaves of experience, of hard childhoods, of war and violence, inside myth and story - a moment, a gesture of love. Thus his poems surprise us, find their way into our own loving, way after the book is put down. But these are not just poems of feeling - they have texture and depth - and empathy.
June 16th, 2011DR. CHARLES FISHMAN, Pulitzer-Prize nominee & Poetry Consultant to Holocaust Memorial Museum i
Matt Pasca’s first collection of poems, A THOUSAND DOORS, cuts through the surf of lame writing and lazy words we have come to accept as “poetry" like the prow of a three-masted schooner that has burst through a curtain of mist. His poems are fresh, quirky, enlivening, and, at their best—as in “Antalya," “Blue Sign, Route 30", and “Natalie, Who,"—expansive, original, and deeply moving. Pasca is a young poet to watch. Follow him and be dazzled.
June 10th, 2011RICHARD DOWLING, Associate Professor of History and English, UMUC (University of Maryland, University College)
This is the first book of poetry of a remarkably gifted young poet, writing intensely moving verse in fiercely honest and concrete language with striking images and arresting phraseology evocative of the sound, pithiness, and cadence of daily speech and experience. His poetry covers the full gamut of human experience from the intimate, unforgettable portraits of his parents, his rich and varied family and cultural background, his failed first love affairs, and his immensely satisfying present marriage and children to profound and moving reflections on the Sept. 11 attack on the United States and the practices of the Taliban in Afghanistan. He harbors a vivid ancient soul at home in both exotic and familiar cultural historical and contemporary settings. His poetry is genuinely universal yet profoundly personal, tapping both the depths of sorrow and outrage and the heights of aspiration and imaginative vision. Anyone who buys the book gains a permanent treasure and a lasting, comforting companion in life. A THOUSAND DOORS is a masterful book of poetry.
June 7th, 2011DR. NICOLE GALANTE, Associate Professor, Stony Brook University
A THOUSAND DOORS reaffirms our connections to the human race at large and strengthens the ties that bind all of us together--faith, hope, and the will to continue the journey. Pasca makes palpable through his poems the feeling of bittersweet renewal that typifies the experience of being an empathetic guide--a truly masterful teacher. His willingness to expose vulnerabilities and honest reflections on love, life, and the pursuit of fulfillment are what make his poetry relatable and inspiring.
June 5th, 2011JIM HOPKINS, author of "Eden’s Day"
A THOUSAND DOORS by Matt Pasca is a journey to the depths of heart, soul, and mind. Page after page, poem after poem, we are reminded that yes, no matter how deep the pain, however far-reaching the soul-search, we can get there from here, after all. Pasca is a word-master of great skill and sensitivity. A THOUSAND DOORS is a book filled with light, each poem a portal to what it means to be truly alive to life’s possibilities.
June 1st, 2011NINA WOLFF, Retired Director of English, Bay Shore Schools
Matt Pasca’s poetry opens a “thousand doors" to the beauty of language–the sound, the rhythm and the sensory details--with messages that reflect our common desires, hopes and dreams. A celebration of metaphorical language and wordsmithing, this book is an English teacher’s dream.
May 12th, 2011SUZANNE LITREL, author of the Jackie Tempo series
Brilliant. Pasca takes the mundane and elevates it to the magical. A THOUSAND DOORS open to marvelous worlds, including our own.
May 10th, 2011ATHENA REICH, award-winning musician and lyricist
Affirming, fascinating, profound, and delightful! In A THOUSAND DOORS, Pasca explores his life as a husband, father and high school English teacher in a deep, honest and open manner that is so rare to find. You end up adoring him in the end, cherishing the relationships around you, and contemplating the larger questions in life.