By Danielle Champiet-Coronado
Forgive: the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense: letting go of negative emotions.
The road to forgiveness can be difficult and tumultuous, but no other road is more worthwhile to travel. It’s how we cross over to peace and happiness for ourselves. Without forgiveness, they will always elude us. Translation by Matthew Minicucci is a modern-day Iliad of familial tragedies and traumas eloquently fashioned in Greek classics and lays out a journey that ends in forgiveness. “The voice will shatter what the fist leaves behind,” “Forgiveness is the wave the voice cannot see.” Translation is laden with such profundities.
On the surface, Mr. Minicucci’s syntax and use of classic tales makes this book a very entertaining read, especially for those of us who love Greek classics and mythology. Why are these stories and characters still so popular? Perhaps it’s because our lives and those in it continue to mirror the classic archetypes of Greek tragedies and Shakespearean dramas. As Shakespeare said in As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women are merely players;” to which Mr. Minicucci responds in Translation, “I tire of pretending. I will show you even your skin is costume.” And he does through the raw stories and exposed wounds that lay beneath, wounds that many of us have in common; divorce, abandonment, betrayal, abuse, and the power of confronting those wrongs and the wrongdoers. “Shatter this; rip that, throw what’s left into the sea………keep fighting bluff and shore like this one where everything we’ve ruined comes back to us:” The sea being our great karmic instructor teaching us that what we throw out, actually or figuratively, comes back to us. This is but a mere sliver of what Translation contains. It’s no wonder that it is an award-winning book (winner of the 2014 Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize). I wouldn’t be surprised to see many syllabi dedicated to Translation.
Mr. Minicucci’s latest book, Small Gods, is just as promising as it was a finalist for the Green Rose Prize from New Issues Press in 2017. Translation was a finalist for that same prize in 2015. Though donned in more existential attire, Small Gods also embraces a bit of humor as with his poem about Pi. Like Translation, Small Gods is a clever and exquisite quilt of his loves and interests; a poetic series using the Greek alphabet, poetic responses to biblical writings and individual prose infused with science and nature all splendidly woven together. “On resurrection: to the dead, the living seem so pointlessly busy.” Sage wisdom with a splash of humor, one line points out how wrapped up we can be in things that do not matter. Small Gods is adorned with such jewels so much so that you’d think that he had a degree in philosophy as well as his MFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. That would just be his old soul coming out to play.
I recently met with Mr. Minicucci for coffee, he had tea. With an incredible list of published works and a flotilla of colleges and Universities that he has taught and is teaching at, which currently includes University of Portland and my family’s alma mater, Pacific University, I wasn’t sure what to expect in our meeting. Would he be bohemian rebel, the pious artist, the staunch professor? Actually, none of the above, he was so laidback and humble it was almost surreal. Mr. Minicucci was more like the friend you have a beer with while watching the hockey game and then enjoy a nice barbeque afterward.
An infinite well of knowledge, I must have asked a million questions and could have asked a million more. We discussed his travels across the U.S. via universities he’s attended and taught at, the challenges of the publishing world, his workshop with Lisa Olstein at U-Mass and meeting Jim Tate and the pleasure of just creating good writing. Ever the teacher, he joyfully imparted some of his knowledge of the mysterious jungles of getting published. It’s not hard to imagine how fortunate his students must be when taking his courses. In addition to his MFA, he also reads and speaks Greek and Latin. Though he has a deep love of the Greek culture and classic literature, actually visiting Greece is still a dream yet to be realized. For now, he enjoys life in Portland, OR, teaching and working as an editor and just won the 2018 Oregon Literary Fellowship!
One of the hardest things for an artist to do is volley between art and business, which you have to do until you make it big and can hire a manager. Mr. Minicucci does it seemingly effortlessly parlaying his degree into a successful career as an instructor, editor and writer. Truly impressive, though I do get the impression that under this humble, grounded exterior lays the heart of a prankster.
Matthew Minicucci will be reading excerpts from Translation and Small Gods at the Barnes and Noble bookstore Poetry Group on January 30th at 7pm in Vancouver, WA. Copies of Translation will be available for purchase that evening or you can bring your copy with you for an autograph. You may also purchase either book on the Barnes and Noble website by clicking the links provided in the paragraphs above. See you there!