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Poets Zapruder, Healey read today

BY ERIC HAWKINSON | MARCH 24, 2011 7:20 AM

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Matthew Zapruder and Steve Healey are on tour. Although they’re musicians, they’re not performing in music venues — they’re on the road to promote some of their latest works of poetry.

Their Midwest tour, which will take them through Chicago, Madison, and Minneapolis, will land them in Iowa City at 7 p.m. today for a reading at Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St. Admission is free.

The two are on tour to promote their most recent works of poetry. Healey will read from his book 10 Mississippi, and Zapruder will read from Come On All You Ghosts.

The two, who are in their 40s, said they were excited about the opportunity to hit the road, escape the business of daily life, and have some guy time.

“This is like the equivalent of when married men go out for a fishing trip,” Zapruder said.

Healey, 44, laughed, but agreed with Zapruder’s analogy.

“When you’re going to spend five or six hours in a car with someone every day for several days, it can’t just be anybody,” he said. “So I’m glad it’s going be [Zapruder].”

Zapruder and Healey attended the M.F.A. program at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, but they didn’t know each other until they met at a book conference after graduating. They’ve since become a part of what Zapruder calls a “tribe” of poets.

“One of the great things about being a poet is you meet other poets, and you become part of this tribe. So [Healey] and I are just two members of this tribe of poets scattered all over the world, really,” Zapruder said. “We’re all trying to do the same thing, which is connect with ourselves and other people, to grasp the unsayable as best we can.”

Healey said he thinks that he and Zapruder have grasped the idea that poetry doesn’t have to overcome the uncertainties of language. Instead, they allow room for humor and play, which, he believes, is more reflective of real life.

Much of their friendship is based on poetry and talking about poetry, but Healey said it goes to deeper levels.

“We share a love of music and a certain orientation toward the world,” he said. “Whether it be our politics or just a way of looking at the world in a quirky way.”

Another quality they have in common is that a great deal of their inspiration comes from music.

Zapruder grew up in a highly musical environment and cherishes music as an artistic outlet in which he doesn’t always have to be the center. For Healey, post-punk and indie rock was an inspiration for him to write lyrics, which, he says, isn’t too far from poetry.

“I thought of poetry as a way to explore music or the language aspect of music,” he said. “In other words, I wanted to write lyrics for my rock band.”

Zapruder writes more so out of the love of language.

“I don’t wake up in the morning and think, ‘I’m going to write a poem today about death’ or about ‘How fragile our lives all are,’ you know?” he said. “Most of my poems are trying to grasp that something that you feel is important, but you can’t quite figure out how to say it.”

Neither started writing poetry until they were in their 20s. Now at the age of 43, Zapruder is as much mystified and grateful to be a poet as he was at the beginning.

With Healey on tour, Zapruder said he hopes to impress the literary town of Iowa City.

“There are a lot of real poets in Iowa City, so you have to show up with your best stuff,” Zapruder said. “It’s not spring training anymore.”


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