The Real Horse
Offering a handbook on the possibilities of the verse line, this collection is precise in its figuring, searching in its intellect, and alert in its music. Here lyric energy levitates into constellations that hold their analytic composure, inviting readers into a shared practice of thinking and feeling that interrogates the confounding intersections of gender, race, class, and national status not as abstract concepts but as foundational intimacies.
Matuk’s interrogations of form cut a path through the tangle of a daughter’s position as a natural-born female citizen of the “First World” and of the poet’s position as a once-undocumented immigrant of mixed ethnicity whose paternity is unavoidably implicated in patriarchy. Rejecting nostalgia for homelands, notions of embodied value (self-made or otherwise), and specious ideas of freedom, these luminously multifaceted poem sequences cast their lot with the lyric voice, trusting it to hold a space where we might follow the child’s ongoing revolution against the patrimony of selfhood and citizenship.
“A lyrical interrogation of Western notions of gender, race, and manifest destiny.”—Publisher’s Weekly
“Addressing his daughter, Matuk questions Western ideologies of freedom legislated for the select few and remaps that freedom via the breathless ecstatic poetic line that nets a consciousness that is both past and present, private and public, abstract and figurative. Tender, difficult, wondrous, and wise, Matuk uproots the coordinates of perception so that he—and we—can see anew with his daughter the world, the country, the immediate, sensual, vanishing landscape scrubbed of metaphor or allegory: ‘Every tree a channel to talk in eucalyptus peels.’ This is a visionary book that needs to be read and re-read. The Real Horse is an inspired, expansive, and fugitive lyric.”—Cathy Park Hong
“Our children don’t belong to us: because our love is as catastrophic as our hatred, we nurture them as weapons and messages, in absolute releasement. Allow this, and the way children hear and see might diffuse you to the point of transparency. Matuk, in The Real Horse, achieves a transparency, one for whom the gendered pronoun can no longer even pretend to suffice. They let us see through them or, like Guanshiyin, the deity they invoke, Matuk hears the cries of the world and becomes their speaker. The angry joy and lustrous agony of their writing is animated by a refusal either to accept the terror or disavow the delight.”—Fred Moten
“As in the illusion of animal locomotion through the slots of a nineteenth-century zoetrope, Farid Matuk’s The Real Horse animates discontinuities of sight and ensuing sound from the historical vault: subjects of social fascination, bodies of the landed and deracinated, fugitives of racial brutality. Lines engender ambient occasions, course surfaces, and a frontier diminishment enacted as present personhood, pushed into forms of ‘a real outlaw daughter’—into dissociative voices of inheritance.”—Roberto Tejada
“I read The Real Horse out loud, in one gulp, and I felt provoked, moved, dazzled, and shaken by its relentless, bone-stirring energy where the terror and care of parenting traverse landscapes haunted by militarized states, racial orders, and family narratives of migration and undocumentation from Syria to the Andes to California. ‘The coast is exploding,’ writes Matuk, and, as it explodes, he births this life-archive for his daughter to find like a secret treasure in the future. Read this cherished book to wake up, to plow through the poetics of demented nationhood, to reimagine the networks that define us.”—Daniel Borzutzky
“Book as ‘gelatin silver print.’ Book as ‘blurry pink mouth.’ Kiss the book. ‘Delay the form.’ Form as ‘carport,’ beneath which the ‘day’s region of objects’ glitter for a few moments, then dissolve. Farid Matuk has written a book of this sort. I read it forever beneath the trees where the horses are. The ‘real horse,’ that is. A book that retrains us how to bear proximities. Book as ‘finite resistances’: the ‘citrus fields’ but also a ‘lit cigarette’ that flares above it, the ‘precisest’ feeling. Or touch.”—Bhanu Kapil