Story of a Poem

Matthew Zapruder

“Anyone who lives on earth must never be considered an outsider anywhere. Anyone who lives in the world belongs to the world.”

Matthew Zapruder had an idea: to write a poem as slowly and intentionally as possible, to preserve its drafts, and record the painstaking, elusively transcendent stuff of its construction. It would be the capstone to a new collection of poetry, and a means to process modern American life in a time of Covid, mega fires, and sobriety. What Zapruder didn’t anticipate was that this literary project would trigger a deeply personal aspect as well: a way to resolve the unexplored pain and unexpected joys he was confronting in the wake of his son’s diagnosis with autism. The result is a remarkable piece of writing, one that explores not just what it means to be a poet, but also what it means to be alive during the Anthropocene—to be on this planet—during this extraordinary time.

By comparing the writing of a poem with his own tangled evolution as a son, husband, and father, Zapruder unfolds moments of his own life in the reflection of an increasingly uncanny world. With a wide range of reference points—from Celan, Li Bai, and Frank O’Hara to Whitman, Merwin, and Rupi Kaur—we join Zapruder on a poet’s journey that, in some alchemy of literature, becomes a journey of our own. Ultimately, the poet asks us to join with him in the search for a crucial answer. In his words: “What world can we imagine, and then make, where we all can live?”

With Story of a Poem celebrated poet Matthew Zapruder offers a personal, deeply unguarded examination of a poet’s eternal struggle to transform a moment of feeling into verse, as well as a subtle and enthralling roadmap to the practice of poetry and finding its threads in everyday life.


Praise for Story of a Poem

"How fortunate, reader, that this book has found you. It found me too, and I spent days captivated by its pages, within which a whole life, and a whole poem, were slowly unfolding before me. Beating on every page is the heart of a father and the heart of a poet. Written with a bright, nimble clarity that lets deep complexities shine, this book is a glimmering candle in darkness."
Doireann Ní Ghríofa, author of A GHOST IN THE THROAT

"Matthew Zapruder’s STORY OF A POEM is the luminous, lyrical meditation on wringing beauty from suffering and air, threaded with a singular, moving story about parenting an atypical child. I read it in a single gulp, and you will too."
Mary Karr, author of THE LIARS' CLUB