American Linden

by Matthew Zapruder


“Matthew Zapruder, editor-in-chief at Verse Press, makes his own verse debut with American Linden, sure to receive cognoscenti attention…”
–Publishers Weekly

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Publishers Weekly has this to say about American Linden: “Matthew Zapruder, editor-in-chief at Verse Press, makes his own verse debut with American Linden, sure to receive cognoscenti attention…”

It is rare to come across a first book that embraces the world the way we see it, and the way it can be imagined—with such a wise and graceful mixture of humor, loss, intelligence, wit, self-deprecation, and hope. American Linden is such a first collection. The poems in this book are valuable, even necessary. They are, in the most important sense, love poems: to people, to ideas, to feelings, and to the mind itself, which by means of language move with honesty, wit, and distinction among the fleeting things of this world.

American Linden took me back to some familiar neighborhoods, but through the unfamiliar language of a new guide, whose stops and turns and sideways glances ‘down alleys/ that do not yet exist’ call into existence a ‘borderless world’ where ‘nothing resembles anything else.’ Often whimsical, always lyric, this poetry is ceaselessly travelling; I was glad to be taken along on its journeys.”
–D. A. Powell 

“By turns fabular and urbane, American Linden signals from a precarious life that is made more beautiful and precious for its entanglement and peril. With Chaplinesque elegance, the inventiveness of these poems is balanced with a sense of fatedness, both dire and deft. I’m reminded of being on one of those airport conveyor belts: one seems to be at a sprint while only walking; part of this book’s stately accomplishment is its deceptive speed and extravagance. Its distortions never lead to disfigurement. Matthew Zapruder is a dangerous poet; his poems implicate us in demonstrations of lift-off and escape velocity while also proving the calamity of gravity.”
–Dean Young 

Matthew ZapruderMatthew Zapruder was born in 1967 in Washington, D.C. He holds a B.A. in Russian Literature from Amherst College, an M.A. in Slavic Languages and Literatures from the University of California at Berkeley, and an M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He is the editor of Verse Press, teaches poetry at the New School, and plays guitar for The Figments. His poems have appeared in many literary magazines and journals, including The Boston ReviewFenceCrowdJubilatBothThe Harvard Review, and The New Yorker. He is also the co-translator of Secret Weapon, the final collection by the late Romanian poet Eugen Jebeleanu. American Linden is his first book of poems.


Matthew Zapruder’s poem “Scarecrow” from American Linden was featured in a St. Louis Poetry in Motion® poster. Poetry in Motion® is an outreach program from the Poetry Society of America that brings poetry to commuters in major metropolitan areas. Zapruder’s poem (the poster is below) was one of the first to be featured in the St. Louis program and remained up until June of 2007.



Additional information

Weight .4 lbs
Dimensions 6 × .5 × 9 in



Who gave the reasonable the right to name things?
Just the other day I was walking down the street
and got named. Just like that.
To be fair, it was unintentional.
She did it out of the corner of her eye,
accidentally. She was exceptionally matronly.
She toted a child whose eye twitched
whenever she looked away.
Powder-blue in polyester, on her way to work like a cloud.
As I said, I was walking down the street
minding everyone’s business when
“semi-radical Jew with bad posture”
hit me like a brick between the eyes.
I unscrewed my face and tried
to give it back to her, but she said,
“No. Where would I hang it? Besides,
you read that in a book by Witold Gombrowicz.
Come back when you have something
less riveting to say.”

The day is wearing a white lab coat.
It is experimenting on us,
which is funny until you stop thinking about it.
Today I am going to drive my car
up into the mountain of distraction
where with my cat, Helix, I shall picnic.
Towards him I feel only slightly parental.
Only enough to feed him tiny
slivers of moral instruction
which he devours daintily without blinking.
Helix doesn’t have a twin.
He is grey, and his left front paw
hurts him, though he has never spoken of it.
Past the blankness of his irises
is a lake of sadness, from which he was torn
many months ago, his mouth and tongue
frozen in a repetition of searching.
His mother was a sofa, a whole
neighborhood of comfort, support,
understanding, doors left unlocked,
kick the can, let’s leave the neighbors
with the kids without even
formally informing them and drive
a car of distraction along the vanished town
of Calico up into the mountains
where we shall picnic. His father
was a cloud, as are all the fathers
of cats. Try to find one. The trail leads
through wet grasses down
to the culvert where I taught
myself to smoke like a wet idea
from which I have just withdrawn,
leaving only the tenderness.
There was a girl named Holly.
We knew each other in the park.
We were pineys.

Dear blossom dearie
just now the announcer
missed the hour by an hour,
and the scratched coronets
of your early recordings
stumbled back into us.
By that missed hour
we did not get up naked
and call him a friend
to summer.
I remember you gave
yourself a blue dress
of not kissing.
You were off
somewhere beautiful
in the same way balancing
a lemonade as she sings
don’t kiss me
yet kiss me again.
We all remember
with limbs colored
as a breeze through curtains
you’re an expressionist
full of rectangular nudes,
you have in your eyes
no absolute bookshelves
filled with alphabetical books
of paintings
all sleeping
when you’re not sleeping.
Yesterday you won’t
be angry with me
in your blue dress
that fits me best,
my remembering.