Poetry in Motion: Matthew Tierney + Lossless

In a series of tech-inspired sonnets and prose poems in his fifth collection Lossless (Coach House Books), Matthew Tierney catalogues all kinds of losses — of people, of childhood, of hope, of memory. In doing so, the poems capture an awareness that loss is the flipside of joy, that joy is in some ways losslessness.

Matthew reads “Was it Art Class or Religion at St. Brendan’s” from the collection and provides a wiretap about the poem, below.


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Poetry in Motion

On “Was it Art Class or Religion at St. Brendan’s” from Lossless

There is obviously something material to memory, a biomechanism rooted in neurons and electrical activity that uploads recorded and stored phenomena, imperfectly timestamped. But this is so far from the experience of remembering that as an explanation it provides little meaning. Why do memories arrive as if ex nihilo, out of nothing? That I had ever carved a boat out of soap in grade school was lost to me — then, it was there — then quickly overwritten by my middle-aged self, the poet, unable to remember it. Of all the sonnets in Lossless, “Was It Art Class or Religion at St. Brendan’s?” is the most ruthless with the memory act, reducing it to constituents. In this way, it makes conspicuous the preoccupation of all lyric poems: to make the ephemeral particulate.  

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Matthew Tierney is the author of four previous books of poetry, most recently Midday at the Super-Kamiokande. He won the Trillium Book Award for Poetry and is also a recipient of the K. M. Hunter Award and
the P. K. Page Founders’ Award. He works for U of T as a writer in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering and lives in the east end of Toronto.