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Boston Review Microreviews Counting Sheep Until Doomsday by Carlo Matos

Boston Review Microreviews Counting Sheep Until Doomsday by Carlo Matos


Microreview: Counting Sheep Until Doomsday, Carlo Matos

September 11, 2013
Counting Sheep Till Doomsday
by Carlo Matos
BlazeVOX Books, $16 (paper)


The prose poems in Carlo Matos’s second collection engage questions about the nature of free will: How does one discern fate from one’s choices? To what extent will one’s life be circumscribed by the actions of others? Amidst all of this, what is the purpose of violence? As the book unfolds, answers to these questions multiply, suggesting the impossibility of claiming such knowledge. For example, Matos writes at the beginning of a sequence called “Fate*,” “You’re gonna’ go out. You’re gonna’ start a fight with a bear, and you’re gonna’ lose.” These sentences imply at first that one is capable of discerning fate from freely made choices. Perhaps more importantly, Matos suggests that this knowledge manifests through an engagement with language. The sequence shatters these initial expectations as the poet re-inscribes the same images with myriad possibilities for interpretation. Language becomes unstable, equivocal. He writes, “Elija asked god to send she-bears to tear the teeth from the children who mocked him bald—so many stones pulling the skulls.” Here Matos revisits the bears, imbuing them with a religious dimension not present before, and the bears become a figure for providence.

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Big Bad Asterisk*  by Carlo Matos reviewed in The Iowa Review

Big Bad Asterisk* by Carlo Matos reviewed in The Iowa Review


Review by: 

 Kristina Marie Darling

Book coverIn Carlo Matos's stunning third book of poetry,Big Bad Asterisk, readers will find "science projects," Jeopardy matches, and "the blood of princes." It is Matos's ability to seamlessly weave together vastly different points of view that makes his work so compelling. Presented as an ongoing series of annotated prose pieces, much of the work in this formally inventive collection reads as a conversation between different characters, as well as a dialogue between different facets of consciousness. For Matos, all writing, thinking, and living is a collaborative act, an idea that is gracefully enacted in the form of the poems themselves. 

With that in mind, Matos's use of formal citations is especially noteworthy. Frequently using annotations to problematize the main text, rather than to explain or clarify its meaning, he presents an innovative text that privileges process over product. Matos envisions writing as a practice in which hypotheses are tested, observations about the world are called into question, and eventually refined, perfected. It is through the presentation of multiple points of view, both in the world and within the self, that we come closer to the truth. Consider this passage:

They needed someone who punished without judgment, who served the moment, and staked the next round.*

*A recent study concluded that although there had been a drastic increase in references to copulation with farm animals in popular media, actual incidence of the fact had been in steep decline since the late 1800s.

Here Matos juxtaposes everyday speech with the rhetoric of science and weighs the two perspectives against one another. His work is at its best when disparate voices, points of view, and epistemologies are presented as coeval, and the reader is allowed to glean insights from all, while committing to none. It is through this presentation of myriad perspectives without strict adherence to a single worldview that Matos suggests we gain the greatest insight. The dialogic form of the work enacts this very idea, as the reader is asked to sort through science, myth, and popular culture, taking with her the most valuable for her purposes. 

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Take a closer look at Carlo's work here

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Arsenic Lobster poetry journal reviews Carlo Matos' books

Arsenic Lobster poetry journal Reviews: 
Review by Jessica Dyer

Counting Sheep Till Doomsday
by Carlo Matos

Big Bad Asterisk*
by Carlo Matos

Let me be really honest with you. When someone writes a book of poems that includes a “flatulence” section, he’s won my eternal love. That someone is Carlo Matos and that book is Counting Sheep Till Doomsday. My eternal love is in the mail.

“There are so few serious songs about shit,” he writes. Oh? Tell me more. He continues, in “In the Spider House”:

To a spider, it is serious like
an old-world table: expectations to be met, a
host’s ancient duty, life and death. They do
not dare laugh at a fart’s deep echo

At the end of the book, Matos and composer Stephen Jean put the words of “In the Spider House” together with music and performance notes. They write, “All ‘notes’ above the middle line of the staff are to be performed as burps or belches; all ‘notes’ below the middle line are to be performed as farts.”


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