Matt Mitchell is a special kind of artist. He’s the kind who rages against the poetic machine while banging on the doldrums of music analysis as a journalist. He is also a badass cartoonist. He does it all out of scrappy Cleveland, Ohio—a city often overlooked for the arts despite its dense breadth of talent.
What I enjoy most about Matt’s work is that no matter the poem he has an uncanny ability to brew the perfect stew of raw emotional honesty and pop culture influences. I found this to be the case in his earlier works such as You’re My Favorite Garçon (Ghost City Press, 2020). His newest work Grown Ocean (Word West, 2021) follows this tradition and train of thought.
Inside these pages you’ll find astronauts, romantic speculative love for the white American man-crush—Jason Bateman, as well as a holy profession for my beloved Philly convenience store, Wawa. You’ll even find yourself traveling back in time to watch NBA Playoff games with the 90s Bulls and the Process 76ers.
But you’ll also find gripping word choices that open up both Michell to his reader, and the reader to Mitchell. He writes:
“we ate ourselves into a new species
our mitochondria, beholdenly glacial and ugly
already stuffed with laughlight hyacinth
gap-tooth doorway dark,” 1
Mitchell shows off the veracity of his vocabulary but also a level of intellectual depth that you may not catch if not reading beyond the surface. Grown Ocean is a collection about love as much as it is a collection of disenchantment with the world. Mitchell confesses this duality with lines like “we are nothing without the ocean, which has grown / wider than an arms length and yellowed accordingly.” 2
You also find truth and hopeful reconciliation within these pages, as Mitchell pens:
“I say: it is my gender that killed all the Buffalo
and apologized with nickels
in this thicket of mediocre road rage
that destroyed pangea
how could you love any of this.
nobody should” 3
As a poet who writes into pop culture myself, I can appreciate Mitchell’s ability to sow it into the narrative without it completely drowning it in references. Mitchell’s description of the fall as a “post-Y2K autumn” is a perfect example of this. If you were there back then, you know exactly what is meant by this. But if you don’t the nostalgia brings a bit of curiosity to have the reader dive into a bit of history.
In other words, these references are rooted in support rather than a hindrance. This is a book-long poem where the ordinary like “Chevrolet dashboards” becomes extraordinary imagistic.
This is because Matt Mitchell is no ordinary poet. His poems contain Meat Loaf, The Isley Brothers, McDonald’s, and Coke Zero. He paints the vibe tenderly in his work, whether that be reminiscing on what was lost during the pandemic, or what is found in love. This is a collection you’ll want to binge read in one sitting, like Mitchell when watching Adam Sandler movies. In other words, you won’t be able to stop once you get started.
1) Mitchell, M. Grown Ocean, Word West, 2021
2) Mitchel, M. Grown Ocean, pg.20, Word West, 2021
3) Mitchell, M. Grown Ocean, pg.26, Word West, 2021