Matt Hart is liberal arts chair at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, where he teaches creative writing, literature, aesthetics, and senior seminars.

In the Aftermath of a Sabbatical

Last September, while on sabbatical, the AAC’s head of creative writing, Matt Hart, hit the road with two new books of poetry, giving readings and talks in venues across the country. After 42 readings, a dozen class visits, and several lectures, he returned to Cincinnati mid-November and jumped right into the recording studio with his band Squirt Gun.

So as far as sabbaticals go, “it was very relaxing,” jokes Hart.

In the midst of the book tour and the new album, Hart was also preparing material for an upcoming teaching stint with the Pacific Northwest College of Art’s low-residency MFA program and—perhaps most labor-intensively of all—conjuring two new manuscripts from a stack of 750 poems awaiting revision in his basement.

“Back in 2017, I decided I was going to type a poem every single day for the entire year,” says Hart.

And the parameters he set for himself were very specific—get up each morning, go to the basement, read some, listen to records, sit down at his Remington Noiseless No. 7 typewriter, and type a poem at least 14 lines long—the length of a sonnet—each one with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

“I had to start somewhere, move through something, and arrive somewhere.”

Hart says the resulting poems were often surreal, but he wasn’t allowed to puzzle through them, edit them, or even look back at them until the following year.

By the end of 2017, there was a stack of 365 poems sitting face down on his typewriter desk. But Hart was having so much fun with the process that he kept it going through 2018.

By the time his sabbatical came around, there was a stack of 750 unedited poems in the basement, waiting to be flipped over and contended with.

“Writing is really easy for me. I can sit down and write, no problem, because I have a process that allows me to do that. And I never worry about writing something stupid or writing something bad.”

“The really difficult process [for me] is actually revising, and trying to figure out whether I had any intentions in the poem, or whether the poem had intentions for me and, you know, where does the poem seem to want to go in spite of my best efforts to screw it up.”

Now in the aftermath of his sabbatical—having tackled the basement stack of poems—Hart has two new working manuscripts entitled Well It’s All Dark Go and Where the Dread Used to Went.

So stay tuned.

Any general takeaways from the past year?

“If I ever went on sabbatical again,” says Hart. “I probably would try to not pack so much in.”

Poetry written on a coloring book page. A poem typed on a type writer. Title is "Drawing an Owl 2"