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Artist Feature: Matthew Potter

Matt Potter is a creative writer who grew up in Kentucky and Virginia before settling into San Diego, California. He reminds us that, as artists, we should try to avoid forcing our messages, and instead try to communicate our perspectives in clear ways. Matt also argues that reflection on both positive and negative responses is beneficial to artistic growth, and that past artistic pieces can serve as snapshots of captured Reflection and Response. Woven in throughout the interview below, Matt provides dope perspectives, scenes, and imagery in his poems ColleteCasey’s Last Bat, Night NoisesThe Day Timothy Died, and Three Thoughts on New Orleans. Check it!

Matthew Potter

It is important to reflect on both the negative and the positive responses. Both are going to drive you and hone your craft.

– Matthew Potter

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

MP: Well, I am an Army Brat, so I bounced around a little. Not as much as some, though. I was born in Fort Knox, Kentucky, but spent my formative years in Newport News, Virginia. I’ve been in San Diego, California for the last thirteen years. I was only supposed to be here a year, but California has a way of dilating time.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

MP: In writing, I take it to mean reflection in your own work, or the reflection of others on your work. Often, it takes someone else’s reflection and response to initiate your own. I think as a young writer, it is extremely hard to self-edit (for an old writer too), because you try to put a piece of yourself in that work, and when it doesn’t sync with someone then you want to dismiss them.  When I read my own, or others’ work I ask myself, “What is this trying to tell me?” Not just on the surface but on a deeper level. The point of all art forms is to communicate, so you want the message to be clear. When a poem or story doesn’t work, often the writer’s message is muddled, and the same when my work doesn’t work for others. The best advice I received was from a Creative Writing professor in college. She told us “You can’t jump out of the page and tell your reader, ‘No, you’re not getting it! I meant you to read it this way!’” So, I try to approach everything in that manner, even work e-mails. Granted, there are going to be times where you and your reader are just on different trips, and that same piece will resonate with so many others.

I think it is important to reflect on both the negative and the positive responses. Both responses are going to drive you and hone your craft. Also, I think it is important to go back to old pieces. I have come across pieces I have written years ago, that I thought were great, and came away thinking, “God, did I write this existential piece of crap?” But I won’t throw them away. It is like having a time capsule of your very specific thoughts at that moment.

On a personal level, I probably spend too much time reflecting. It is easy to get caught up in the past and believe you should have done something different. As Jack Kerouac said, “Accept loss forever.” But having said that, I think it is important to take a little time to reflect on your mistakes so you learn from them.


Oh how I long for a thin-legged French girl named Collete. She would take long drags of her cigarette. Shoot a stream of smoke pushing it through the air, as she rolled her cold black eyes toward a paint-chipped ceiling–exhaling all the stupid things I just breathed into her.

And when she was mad she would huff and stammer in French as she kicked my empty wine bottles across cold wooden floors. She would always be in bed before me, and I would lie on top of the sheets beside her–staring up at our paint-chipped universe alone. Watching Paris spin around me.

And in the morning the sun would breath through pale wind-rustled curtains as shafts of light pry our eyelids open. She would roll over and bury her head in my chest, and we would lie there for an eternity as I engulfed her long dark hair.

How does your work fit in with that definition?

MP: Probably one of the hardest things I find in writing is to have a title that fits your piece, but doesn’t give so much away to your reader. This is probably why I title my pieces after I have written them. It is reflection during the creative process. Occasionally, a title will come to me and I’ll build on it, but it is not the norm. I want to set the tone or a mood with the title, without telling the reader exactly what [the piece] is about. Some of the best poems I have read, Charles Bukowski immediately comes to mind, are ones that have me go back to the title after I have finished reading the poem, and find that the titles are one-line poems themselves. The good ones always make you have that first sip of coffee reaction (the “mmmm. . .” effect). I would love it if my titles could have that response on my readers. I think it is a bit of a cop-out to have too many of your works untitled or have the title be the first line of the poem. Not only for your readers, but for yourself in not reflecting on your piece before you send it off.

Casey’s Last Bat

Every spring, in Havana, when the sugar cane stalks became thick and green

and America still held such promise,

the Dodgers would knock the red clay dust from metal spikes.

Hemingway would breath in the salt soaked air and

run rumrunners down a thick bearded sun burnt throat.

He and Casey would decide who the

Heavy Weight Champion of the World was that night.

Maniacal roar of the home team crowd,

pleading of a Hemingway’s wife,

“Life should be different than this.”

Genius soaked in alcohol and pain,

but he held her tight on warm spring nights

and told her that life was beautiful and worth fighting for.

Shared drinks would bleed into morning,

day’s tomorrow would begin again.

And when October winds had whipped

the baseballs clear of the diamond fields,

Casey’s glove, beaten and worn‐‐sad with the past,

lay stored in an unmarked box in the dark closet.

Casey gathered his strength and lifted not a bat,

but a shotgun and calmly put the barrel to his throat.

Hemingway said, “He did it like a man.”

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

MP: I have several poems that have been published here and there. I would like to get a collection published. Either a chap book or a complete collection. I’ve found it difficult to gather the ones I wish to see published in a collection and come up with a title for that collection. I would say the majority of it is making the time to make it happen. I certainly use the excuse of life’s minutia getting in the way.

Night Noises

You start to hear everything after midnight

in the middle of the week maybe,

when the summer air is thick and heavy.

The buildings are still.

Breeze pushes trees-rustle of leaves,

loud whispers in the night.

Lonely birds that sing at 2 am,

just when you thought everything was asleep.

The hurried scatter of gravel as the cat rushes through,

chasing a cricket or the moon.


I focus on my breathing, as if hearing it for the first time.

Thinking about every molecule rushing in and out of my mouth.

Squeaking protest of the bed as I try to get comfortable.

The refrigerator suddenly awakened-hums itself back to sleep.

The faucet that rains tepid drops–pling, pling, plop.

A stray car’s tires rolls across cool asphalt.

And somewhere in the dead streets and abandoned beaches

a barbaric yawp tears through the night,

as morning starts to awaken the rest of the world.

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Artist Feature: Jeremy Flax

I first met my dude Jeremy Flax stompin’ away at the Open Mic at Triskel Tavern beating out some dope sounding electric guitar blues tune on a Thursday night at 1:30 AM. Jeremy is from Virginia and lived in Madrid from 2011-2013 and is now back in the United States working with his group J Flax and The Heart Attacks. Below, Jeremy discusses the self-reflective nature of Reflection and Response, and how conclusions drawn from this practice can help us better ourselves. Jeremy also presents his dope practice of listening to his old groups and selecting elements that he is currently using with his group today. Be on the lookout for shows throughout the Virginia and Washington DC area from this powerful performer, composer, and vocalist!

Jeremy Flax

Reflection means really looking back at the actions you’ve taken and the things you’ve said and thinking about how they have affected others…Response entails what you decide to do with the conclusions you’ve drawn.

– Jeremy Flax

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

JF: I’m from Virginia Beach, Virginia originally. I’ve lived in Virginia my whole life except for two years that I spent in Madrid from 2011 to 2013. Right now I’m actually back living in Virginia Beach for the first time in several years, but I’m hoping to relocate to Washington, DC in the near future.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

JF: To me reflection means really looking back at the actions you’ve taken and the things you’ve said and thinking about how they have affected others. Did they have a positive impact or a negative impact? Did they help me to better myself or am I the same person now as I was then? Response to me entails what you decide to do with the conclusions you’ve drawn. What have I learned about myself and how can I justify the actions I’ve taken? Response is picking a road to go down after having examined the road you’ve already taken.

How does your band J.Flax & The Heart Attacks fit in with that definition?

JF: The music that I’m making now is in a way a response to conclusions I’ve reached having analyzed the music I was making with my former band, The Vermilions. Listening to both you can hear that the influences come from the same place but I feel like having gone back and listened to my previous record several years after making it I can pick out elements of those songs that I still enjoy and phase out the elements that looking back I find didn’t work. The result is a collection of songs that are far more streamlined and are a lot of fun to listen to as well as perform.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

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