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Work Samples


In selecting "Curfew" as the winner of the 2016 Oberon Poetry Award, poet Mark Wagenaar writes, "I chose 'Curfew' for a few reasons. This is a subtle poem that begins in etymology--in other words, the poem's scope immediately widens to the implied history of the word. Yet, line by line the poem's lens draws in tighter & tighter, until the reader is viewing the streets as they burn, then listening to the eerie quiet. The soundscape of the poem is rich, yet the poet dampens the sound when silence is called for. The poem manages to reckon with racial violence and the tension between authority & protestor, between security & liberty, between the state and the people's right to assemble, yet it does so with a light touch, through well-brushed rendering of detail & precision of language. Perhaps more importantly, it avoids the cheap moralizing & finger-pointing so common to political poems. The poem surprises us. It will not look away, & demands that we do not look away.
PDF icon Curfew.pdf

Saratoga Passage.pdf

Shortlisted for the 2015 Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize, published in The Moth, Issue 20, Spring 2015, and The Irish Times, Friday, April 24, 2015; winner, 2015 Lascaux Prize in Poetry.
PDF icon Saratoga Passage.pdf


Winner, 2014 Maryland Writers’ Association Literary Contest Poetry), published in MWA anthology Synergy: A Collage of Voices, September 2015.
PDF icon Oysters.pdf

Ground Rules.pdf

Finalist, Earl Weaver Prize, Cobalt Baseball Issue 2015; published in Cobalt Vol. 4 (2016).
PDF icon Ground Rules.pdf

Foreclosures (Full-length Poetry Manuscript with Images)

While performing interior inspections of vacant houses for my day job using an app on my iPhone, most of which were located in rural Carroll, Frederick, and Howard Counties in Maryland, I took pictures off-app, knowing I'd one day sit down to write what I saw: heart-rending stories evident in the personal items left behind by the former occupants--often families, but sometimes individuals--who were evicted by the banks after they'd lost their house to foreclosure.

The eerie silence and tableau-like array of clothing, children's toys, sometimes calcified food in bowls left behind on the countertops, lent a discomforting voyeuristic feeling of encroachment into someone else's financial disaster. It was as if I were witnessing the frozen last moments of someone else's nightmare. I frequently reminded myself that there but for the grace of God went I and, indeed, any of us.

Indeed, many people are still trying to recover from this dark chapter in American history, especially in rural areas. Americans are still being dragged under, or teetering on the edge of ruin from the housing and financial collapse, and near-depression of late 2008 to early 2009.

My intent with these photos and poems is to bring to light, publicize, and humanize an American tragedy that continues to fester across most regions of our nation; however, where it has affected more remote parts of the rural countryside, it has often been hidden away from the consciousness of the general public.

Thresholds (Full-length Poetry Manuscript)

Thresholds is a full-length manuscript of poems I have written mostly over the past three to five years, with a few older poems as well. The poems in this manuscript explore the landscapes of time, memory, the natural world, experience in the moment, loss, and love.

Lately I have been returning to themes and events that have shaped--and continue to shape--my life and how I see the world: politics, my adoption as an infant, my (adoptive) mother's leaving the family when I was 10, and the recent suicide of a close friend with whom I grew up. (Another friend, my confirmation sponsor, also jumped to his death, which is written about in my poem "Confirmation.") My poems about my friend who killed himself are also, in some cases, homages to my friendships growing up in one of the original suburbs inside the Beltway just north of Baltimore. I have found writing those poems to be healing, in a way. They have allowed me to recapture and remember my memories with him and the other guys in the crew I grew up with, and to process his senseless death, which occurred only a few years ago. One of our mutual friends, whom I'd not seen in over 25 years, said when we got together over a few beers recently to talk of our lost friend and catch up, that it was as if our childhood(s) had been taken from us. My poems have surprised me with the details I remember from such formative moments. As with my "poems of witness," about the 9/11 attacks, or several shootings which shook me to the core, these poems seek to provide a poetic record of what happened--not just answer the "five W's and an H" questions any reporter would ask, but to provide an emotional and spiritual context to them.

Through my poetry, I seek to bridge what often feels like a chasm between myself and others; in poetry, I believe we find that commonality, that connection we so desperately need. I offer my work so that others might have the same healing for themselves. We all bear scars and pockmarks from life; I write and share my work not to pick old scabs, but to show others how one might face one's "hurts" squarely, acknowledge them, and trust that owning one's most painful moments can be a strength and not a burden. I write to communicate. I write to connect. It is in that communion with others on the page and at readings where my poetry, whether it be the elegies, the political poems, the humorous pieces, or the more pastoral musings, lives.

The majority of the poems in the larger manuscript, some of which have won awards, have been published individually. All of the poems offered here as samples have been published or won awards.

Thresholds was a semi-finalist in the 2015 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award.

  • Curfew

    From the Old French, "covrefeu," literally, [it] covers / [the] fire. See "cover." See "fire." Hear the church bell / toll the hour to cover the hearth fire with ashes / "to prevent conflagrations from untended fires." / His eyelids swollen shut; the police van a sealed casket.
    PDF icon Curfew
  • Confirmation

    Penance / What is the sound / of regret through the wind / at sixteen feet per second? / Absolution / Your feet, empty / as beams of light. / Your smile a dead / giveaway.
    PDF icon Confirmation
  • Toward Pittsburgh

    Light by quiet light, Edward Hopper’s America / nestles into its small, white, box houses, / blue glow of computer and TV screens / spilling out through upstairs bedroom curtains.
    PDF icon Toward Pittsburgh
  • Please Refrain from Celebratory Gunfire

    Tomorrow night I will listen in the charged air / and wait for the stars to fall from holes / where they were shot out / of the night like the eyes of gods....
    PDF icon Please Refrain from Celebratory Gunfire
  • May Day

    ...right before the sky / over me turned tornado green, and I understood at ten, / the end of love, the wreck of family, the limits of God.
    PDF icon May Day
  • The Maximum Effective Range

    In an expanding color wheel of panic and space: / thirty hungry ambulances, three hundred terrified parents, / a shocked nation of three hundred million.
    PDF icon The Maximum Effective Range
  • Oysters

    Once your legion filtered the whole bay in days; now / it takes you a year. There’s mercury in the mud. There’s lead. / How do you taste without that metallic after-singe?
    PDF icon Oysters
  • Saudade: 1983

    High school and college and real / work loomed like cops and grandfathers, but we / held the years before us at arms’ length, shut our / eyes, floated across those waning hours like / milkweed silk....
    PDF icon Saudade: 1983
  • Ground Rules

    The dents on that chapel have outlived Steve and his father. Our diamond / now grows a community garden. The four of us played those humid dusks / until well after the lightning bugs began to dance for mates in the infield / that last fleeting summer....
    PDF icon Ground Rules
  • Saratoga Passage, August 2014

    I must have been / like these: a brief interrupter of cycles, growing for nine moons, released out / of you and away into space, gone but for an umbilical scar....
    PDF icon Saratoga Passage, August 2014

Different Homeland (Co-Editor)

This is a collection of work by students and faculty at Naropa University, which I co-edited with friend and fellow student Laurence Paverd. We put this collection of work together to raise awareness of, and money for Students for Ethnic Inclusion, in support of the Zora Neale Hurston Scholarship for minority students in the Writing Program at Naropa.

States (Chapbook)

States is my chapbook published by Third Ear Books (ISBN #1-891051-17-2). This chapbook originally started as a series of micro cassette tapes spoken as a travel journal as I drove solo across the country to Naropa University (then called The Naropa Institute) in Boulder, Colorado to pursue my MFA in Writing at their Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. States was first transcribed verbatim from the tapes, then shaped, workshopped, and edited over the next two years. This is the final product of the creative portion of my master's thesis, which Jerry Tumlinson at Third Ear Books was gracious enough to publish.

Pasta Poetics 1 & 2 (Editor)

This is a collection of creative work and recipes by students and faculty at Naropa University. The idea for the book arose after an intense discussion during a lecture at Naropa's Summer Writing Program about the role of poetry and the arts in today's increasingly product-driven, utilitarian world (see Old Navy's latest clothing line for small children in which "Future Artist" is crossed out to read, "Future Scientist," etc.). I wanted to see if a published product of writing could both help the practical needs of people and provide a light of art and culture as well.

I used a comb binding, instead of a saddle-staple or having it perfect-bound. This way, the book would lay usefully flat, like a cookbook, which is something anyone with a knife in one hand and a turnip in the other can appreciate when trying to read the page on which the recipe is found.

Sure enough, not only did I sell out of the "poetry cookbook," I raised a small but significant amount of money from the proceeds, all of which was donated to the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless.

Pasta Poetics 1997 & 1998

These two volumes of Pasta Poetics were produced here in Baltimore after I returned from Colorado after receiving my MFA in Writing & Poetics from Naropa University. All of the proceeds raised by these two editions were donated to Beans and Bread Soup Kitchen in Fells Point.

Spoken Word Recordings

The first poem, "Kevin," is about a former student in my tenth grade World Literature class at Towson High School. It was the featured poem for Monday, November 3, 2014 on The Five-Two, a blog of poems about crime, edited by Gerald So. (Recording credit: Jason DeFontes.)

Here is the link to the The Five-Two (scroll down to find my poem and recording):

The second poem is "Cal Ripken," which was included on a CD of local Baltimore and Maryland poets reading their work, produced by Blair Ewing, entitled "Word Up, Baltimore!" The CD was released in 2001. I wrote it during the height of the media frenzy over The Streak after detecting in Cal's tone a bit of weariness over the hype surrounding what would be his eventual breaking of Lou Gehrig's consecutive games played streak. The poem does not mock Ripken, but pokes a little at the level to which people began to regard a man who happened to be excellent at what he did for a living, going about his job every day.


About Matt

Baltimore City

Matt Hohner, a Baltimore native, holds an M.F.A. in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, where he won the 1996 Ted Berrigan Scholarship and the 1996-97 Honors Scholarship. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including The Baltimore Review, September Eleven: Maryland... more

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