DAVID WOJAHN AND JAMES HARMS
An Interview with William Matthews
James Harms and David Wojahn conducted this interview in William Matthews's New York City apartment in October of 1995, two years before the poet's death. Matthews had just published Time & Money, his ninth collection of verse, which went on to win the National Book Critics' Circle Award in poetry for that year. As this and other published interviews with Matthews attest, he was a brilliantly gifted conversationalist—loquacious, genial, and witty, not someone who loved to hear himself talk, but a man whose talk made the same sorts of playful imaginative leaps and serendipitous discoveries that characterize his poems. It was a spacious apartment, but Matthews' study was fairly small, and, as Matthews mentions in the interview, his desk faced one of its walls, not its windows. The apartment contained a large number of books, and an astonishing collection of jazz and opera CDs. Opera was one of the abiding passions of Matthews's later life, and he had recently begun to write reviews of New York productions—in part, he told us, to make money to spend on more CDs.
Matthews was working on several projects, but mainly on the poems which would comprise his posthumously published collection, After All, and on the translations of Horace, which would also be published after his death.
The first half of the interview is presented here. The second half appears in Blackbird, Vol. 4, No.1. In addition, a shortened version of the interview appeared in Blues for Bill: A Celebration of William Matthews, published by the University of Akron Press in 2005.