Airea D. Matthews

Acclaimed Poet & Educator

Readings & Lecture Topics

  • An Evening with Airea D. Matthews


“Matthews’s writing is bold, innovative and complex.” —Washington Post

Airea D. Matthews’ first collection of poems is the critically acclaimed Simulacra, which received the prestigious 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. The collection explores the topics of want and desire with power, insight, and intense emotion. Matthews received the 2016 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and was awarded the Louis Untermeyer Scholarship in Poetry from the 2016 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. New Yorker critic Dan Chiasson describes Matthews’s experimental forms in Simulacra as “Fugues, text messages to the dead, imagined outtakes from Wittgenstein, tart mini-operas, fairy tales: Matthews is virtuosic, frantic, and darkly, very darkly, funny.” A Cave Canem Fellow and a Kresge Literary Arts Fellow, Matthews is a founding member of the Riven collective along with Marissa Johnson-Valenzuela and Cynthia Dewi Oka. Her work has appeared in Best American Poets 2015, American Poets, The Rumpus, Four Way Review, Indiana Review, and elsewhere. Matthews earned an MFA from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan. Matthew’s current projects include a second book, under/class, which seeks to lyrically deconstruct the accepted narratives around poverty and class. She is an assistant professor at Bryn Mawr College where she directs the creative writing program. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and four children.

Airea D. Matthews’s Website


Airea D. Matthews’ first collection of poems is the critically acclaimed Simulacra, which received the prestigious 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. The collection explores the topics of want and desire with power, insight, and intense emotion. Matthews received the 2016 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and was awarded the Louis Untermeyer Scholarship in Poetry from the 2016 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Matthews received an MFA from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan. A Cave Canem Fellow and a Kresge Literary Arts Fellow, Matthews is a founding member of the Riven collective along with Marissa Johnson-Valenzuela and Cynthia Dewi Oka. Matthew’s current projects include a second book, under/class, which seeks to lyrically deconstruct the accepted narratives around poverty and class. She is an assistant professor at Bryn Mawr College where she directs the creative writing program. Matthews lives in Philadelphia with her husband and four children.


SIMULACRA (2017)

“A deft, shape-shifting debut, Matthews surveys the possible responses to what seems ineluctable, offering a work of intrepid imagination, inquiry, and strength.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Simulacra demonstrates how traditional text-based poetry is evolving and adapting to modern molds.” —Pacific Standard

A fresh and rebellious poetic voice, Airea D. Matthews debuts in the acclaimed series that showcases the work of exciting and innovative young American poets. Matthews’s superb collection explores the topic of want and desire with power, insight, and intense emotion. Her poems cross historical boundaries and speak emphatically from a racialized America, where the trajectories of joy and exploitation, striving and thwarting, violence and celebration are constrained by differentials of privilege and contemporary modes of communication. In his foreword, series judge Carl Phillips calls this book “rollicking, destabilizing, at once intellectually sly and piercing and finally poignant.” This is poetry that breaks new literary ground, inspiring readers to think differently about what poems can and should do in a new media society where imaginations are laid bare and there is no thought too provocative to send out into the world.


Read “Etymology” — Academy of American Poets

Read “Black Ecstatic Ode” — Michigan Quarterly Review

CONFESSIONS FROM HERE

I left our window open most nights. A man with winged ankles would visit while you slept. He’d ask about my doings, how the syrah finished, noticed the dimple on my chin when I smiled, touched the thick swell of my waist, lightly. When the wind whistled like the Northeast Corridor, he’d tongue the small of my back before leaving. After 2 most mornings. I wailed a tempest that last time. Flooded our basement. Asked him to stay or carry me over. He tucked me in the crook of his elbow and flew here. Where I am now.

When you woke the next morning, I imagine you thought it rained the night before. You called the plumber, didn’t you? To fix the basement, swollen from squalls? Did you dig your fingernail under the blistering cinder? Check for mold? Did the walls crumble? When you asked the children where their mother was? Did they shrug? Bounce my name between rooms? Weep into their porridge? If they beat their bare feet against the cracked tiles in the hallway, did you notice those tiny feathers sprouting from their Achilles? Did you wrinkle your brow? Grab your shears?