Matt Prater

2014 Poetry Contest Winner 

Poetry Contest Judge Allison Joseph writes of Matt Prater's winning poem:

“I love its detailed lusciousness, and the way abundance plays against lack in the poem. It has a confident, sure voice, even as its main subject is loss and doubt.”


Jerusalem Artichoke

In this country of counties of lack,
tangles of mint sprigs line the ambling,
diversion borne creeks below old 
half-restored grist mills,

and edible funk is bursting 
from the untreated mast at the edges
of abandoned farms. The world
is a teeming sultry angel

whose number I used to have here
somewhere, folded in a wallet
on a lipstick smudged 
or Stetson scented napkin.

But I can’t remember names
anymore, or whether the earth was 
a man or a woman, or both. What type 
of mint I smell now I don’t know.

For all I know, each thing could be 
a poison angel mushroom. If I am as lost
in my own native corn as a traveler
in some distant foreign city,

where the names of plants
are the only necessary annals, 
I have not earned the right to taste 
the brooding sacrificial wings

of the elderberry or the wild mint,
or the nettle or the tart yellow sorrel,
or the hickory, or the goatsbeard,
or the tall Jerusalem artichoke,

these names I know and recite
like Proust or the dense Nietzsche,
whose words I would only recognize
in passing flashes along the way.


Matt Prater is a poet and writer from Saltville, Va. A graduate of Radford and Appalachian State Universities, his work has appeared (or is forthcoming) in ALCAlines, Appalachian Heritage, Floyd County Moonshine, The Hollins Critic, James Dickey Review, Motif, Now & Then: The Appalachian Magazine, and Still: The Journal, among other publications. He has taught at Appalachian State and King Universities, and currently works as an instructor at Emory & Henry College in Emory, Va.


                                                                                 return to poetry        home