Writer’s Voice Spotlight: Matthew Gavin Frank

by watershedcsuc


CSU, Chico Writer’s Voice is proud to present, poet, travel and food, and nonfiction writer, Matthew Gavin Frank, Thursday, February 26th at 7:30 pm in Colusa 100B. Frank is the author of Barolo (The University of Nebraska Press), a food memoir based on his illegal work in the Italian wine industry, and Pot Farm (The University of Nebraska Press / Bison Books), about his time working on a medical marijuana farm in Northern California. His poetry collections, The Morrow Plots and Sagittarius Agitprop are available from Black Lawrence Press/Dzanc Books. His poetry book, Warranty in Zulu, is available from Barrow Street Press. He is also the author of the chapbooks Four Hours to Mpumalanga (Pudding House Publications), a poetry sequence about his initial visit to his wife’s homeland in rural South Africa, and Aardvark (West Town Press), a poetry sequence that strangely engages the alphabet. Recent work appears in The New Republic, Field, Epoch, The Huffington Post, Crazyhorse, Indiana Review, The Iowa Review, The Poetry Foundation, North American Review, Pleiades, The Best Food Writing and The Best Travel Writing anthologies, Creative Nonfiction, Gastronomica, Plate Magazine, and others.

Frank’s latest work, his book-length essay, Preparing the Ghost, is a creative nonfiction exploration of obsession. The essay’s protagonist, the 19th century Newfoundland reverend, writer, and amateur naturalist, Moses Harvey, is a modern-day Captain Ahab, consumed by his pursuit of one the sea’s most fabled monstrosities, the giant squid. In exhaustive, free-associative lists; in in-depth, anatomical studies; in disturbingly erotic dreams; and, most rarely, in physical form, the giant squid maintains a constant, lurking presence throughout each vignette of the essay.

However, obsession seems to operate on multiple levels in Preparing the Ghost. If a man’s obsession with a monster is the essay’s subject, then a man’s obsession with another man is the mode in which the essay operates. Entire sections of Preparing the Ghost are devoted to exploring Harvey as a character—dissecting his mind, pulling apart his childhood, his origin, piece by piece and hypothesizing the influences and intentions behind the man who—after years of searching, studying, and finally finding the mythological creature of his dreams—slung it over the top bar of his bathtub and snapped a photograph so indelicate, it seems more reminiscent of the dark corners of the internet than the dark depths of the sea.

Matthew Gavin Frank is visiting campus in support of the Humanities Center’s theme of Food and Culture. His book, Barolo, is a travelogue detailing an American removed from the microwave-centered cuisine of his youth in search of a deeper, richer experience. Frank nurtures a passion for food—and, indeed, life itself—from a rent-free tent in Barolo, Italy, where he hones his passion and palate on the region’s delicacies and transmits them across time and culture with carefully-cultured metaphors and descriptions that left this reader grumbling for a meal well outside his student budget. Most notably, it is Frank’s pride in life that shines through the brightest. Barolo—like its namesake—is a fulfilling experience unto itself.

Check out Frank’s website and his essay, “Qualifications on Twenty Things Said About Dover Cake” from issue 35.2 of Watershed Review.

Please join us for an exciting evening with Matthew Gavin Frank, Thursday, February 26th at 7:30 pm in Colusa 100B. Thanks to contributions made by the Department of English and the College of Humanities and Fine Arts and the Humanities Center, this Writer’s Voice reading is free and open to the public.

By Zach Phillips and Matt Skripek