Shut Down Strangers & Hot Rod Angels: Featured Author #3 - Matt Mitchell

In the weeks leading up to the release date of Shut Down Strangers & Hot Rod Angels, I'll be featuring some of the pieces and authors here on the blog! Our third feature is Matt Mitchell and his poem "the night our team destroyed those goddamn panthers."

Matt Mitchell is an intersex Northeast Ohio writer trying to make his work as beautiful as Ken Griffey Jr.’s swing. He’d love to meet up at your local coffee shop (not Starbucks, because the aforementioned poet’s partner’s family owns a coffee shop and the aforementioned poet refuses to cross enemy lines) and talk about how the Thompson Twins’ “Hold Me Now” is the quintessential pop banger. His chapbook, you & me & the pink moon & these portraits, was recently published by Ghost City Press.

Which Springsteen song(s) inspired your poem?

This poem was mainly inspired by “Born to Run.” But, I think the entire Born to Run album is playing beneath the words.

What is it about these songs in particular and/or Bruce’s music in general that inspires you?

With that song, specifically, I can live in it. The narrative feels relatable, but I also have to recognize the privilege that comes with believing I can live in that song. The poem takes place in the past, and I’ve long acknowledged that I cannot physically, or mentally, relate to it anymore. I’m always trying to write about my past and make sense of it, because I definitely didn’t do so in the moment. I wanted to put this particular scene, a normal night at a high school basketball game, into words, and Bruce’s music was definitely the soundtrack to that night. The story I lived through could definitely sneak into the Born to Run tracklist somewhere.

What five Springsteen songs do you think everyone should listen to? (This list can include the song(s) that inspired your poem, but doesn’t have to.)

“Streets of Philadelphia,” “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy),” “Jungleland,” “Sherry Darling,” and “Growing Up.” That’s my go-to five-song Bruce playlist.

What’s your favorite line/section from this poem?

My favorite line is the last one: “the night we sang i’ll love you with all the madness in my soul at the top of our teenage lungs; the night every flash of lightning was god taking pictures of us so we wouldn’t forget.” I’m just really proud of that imagery. This idea that a Bruce lyric can flow into something so heavenly and, for lack of a better term, absurd. I think everyone has had at least one moment in their life where they were young and really felt like they were fucking invincible.

Anything else you’d like to say, either about Bruce or about your poem?

This anthology is so important. I hope everyone who reads it can find something lovely in my poem and everyone else’s work. May Bruce’s work live on through these pages, his songs, and beyond.

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