With Runoff, Clay Matthews solidifies his claim as the only real successor to the narrative, discursive line of Richard Hugo while extending that range to include the kind of hard & sparkling bursts of revelatory truth-won-through-trauma that punctuate the landscape of the best of Larry Levis.
There’s a howling emptiness that runs through these lines like a river washing through a prairie canyon – but there’s a hopeful certainty too: that where it’s going is simply where it’s going & there’ll be sunshine & clear skies someday.
— Nate Pritts
Clay Matthews’ Runoff is ambitious, recursive, and tenacious. Part weather journal, part calendar, part hiding place, Runoff is dense with Americana: skee ball and social security cards, spark plugs and scissortail flycatchers. Beverly’s Pancake House and Roseanne reruns. A chicken-fried, not-quite-countrified Hamlet-of-sorts, Matthews says, “I got some kind of faith / in some kind / of something,” which is tender and optimistic in a world constantly “making up neo- and post- and pre- and new names for itself.” Combining the cultural, natural, and metaphysical with ease, here is a voice that ultimately just wants us to “witness the world / you little fools / and love it.” Literally letting his days run onto the page, an ordinary man takes us through a year of his (extra?) ordinary life. “And stranger,” he says, “you are welcome to it.” Welcome we are, indeed.
— Brandi Homan
Clay Matthews’ RUNOFF is disheveled, bedeviled and worming with gargantuan spirit, a book so leaping with faith and flooded with urgent clamor the sky actually shakes when you read it. Wildly committed to the details, anecdotes and strange visions of a sample twelve month existence, this work is both serious and seriously EPIC—full-throttle accumulation, association, and radical attention. It’s a major book from a writer who’s already shown himself to be one of our best and most unconventional narrative-lyric poets. Your head will spin, your eyes will bulge, you’ll think you could’ve done it, but you didn’t (and you couldn’t)! Put on your goggles and armor; you’re in for a crushing, bewildering, and beautiful ride.
— Matt Hart