A Book Review of Daydreams, Obsessions, Realities from Matthew McGuirk (Alien Buddha Press) review by Matthew da Silva

Bio: Matt McGuirk teaches and laughs at his puns by day and scribbles somewhat coherent words nightly. He lives with his family in New Hampshire. BOTN 2021 nominee with words in various lit mags. Debut collection with Alien Buddha Press called Daydreams, Obsessions, Realities isavailable on Amazon and Lulu.Twitter: @McguirkMatthew Instagram: @mcguirk_matthew.

A Review of Daydreams, Obsessions, Realities (review done by Matthew da Silva)

https://amzn.to/3GPbIX6 for Matt’s book

Mixing poetry and prose McGuirk creates a space like ones experienced in childhood and there’re also speculative stories, such as ‘Imitating Dopamine’, a pessimistic prelude to the future of augmented reality corporates like the supposed Meta (Facebook, whatever) which will recreate something like Second Life, a now defunct arena where people would represent themselves with avatars and type conversations with their clacking keyboards (hands raised like Michael Jackson dancing ‘Thriller’ as they made words to communicate with other avatars among the strange planes and angles of virtual reality). Or they would teleport to digital houses in an endless landscape so that, unlike in the real world, they could inhabit dreams beyond diurnal imagining or nocturnal visions. 

Different personalities awaited their endeavour. But never fear, you can do far, far worse than reading such engaging stories as ‘In the Weeds’ and ‘Mac the Pirate’, garish and bold sorties into escapism. Some of this review was written on a Friday. Where would we’ve been, in lockdown, without Netflix? 

‘Just Leaves in the Wind’, a longer story in the collection, suggests McGuirk watches streaming TV in his free time, but when he’s not imagining a chemically enhanced future, McGuirk’s bursting imagination transports the reader to places everyone who’s had a happy (?) upbringing can relate to. When I was reading ‘Ray and the Frog’ I was back in the park beyond the back fence at 110a Hopetoun Avenue, the house I grew up in from when I was a waddling infant until I was seven years old. Down the back, near the gate, we had a swing set. From the balcony upstairs you could see, to the southwest, the trees galloping away over leafy suburbs where the houses sit right up against the welcoming hollows and bays of the harbour. 

If we went out the gate it was only a minute’s walk to the Rock With the Hole in It. McGuirk’s two friends are just as cruel as we were, or just as heedless. When us kids used to play in the creek that wended its way through the park we’d be watching the fish. They were tiny, no more than an inch-and-a-half long. I recall a delicious stab of pity and regret when I’d brought one of the little wriggling bodies out of the clear stream onto the bank where we played our games, it lay on the grey sand opening and closing its mouth as it tried to get the oxygenated water it needed to flow over its gills so that it could survive. I didn’t really understand how fish breathed in those days but I do remember the pathos of the sight of this tiny creature dying because of an action of mine. And the feeling of shame that came with it has rested among my memories ever since, a plunger over the drain of time.

You can see how this sort of feeling (I imagine McGuirk felt something similar to me when, as a child himself, he’d hunt) might transfer itself to a feeling of pity at what is to come.

An author finds a kind of salvation in writing, as though by putting words down, laying down letters one after the other in a dogged sequence – like ants out of the broken head of a dead man on a beach – you were able to process the world more efficiently, with more compassion (the word we all use these days is “empathy” but I’m not sure I endorse its antiseptic pallor) to make poems or stories to understand who you are.

In ‘The Day the Little Mermaid Died’ we’re once again ten years old. Walking over sand dunes. The beach has a competent chronicler in McGuirk but he also does well in suburbia, as in his story about the computer salesman who decides to get a digital implant in order to escape from life. SThe book ‘Daydreams, Obsessions, Realities’ is a hybrid and contains free-verse poetry as well as short fiction, but the idea of bionic implants is as trusty as that worthy TV drama, which screened in the seventies, ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’. I’d watch the show with my brother – who used to go with me also into the park to play at the creek – on the TV downstairs during the weeks when granny was at home.

My brother still reads sci-fi but I’ve largely moved on. Unless, of course, a book like this comes along. I see the appeal, though these days the number of dystopian fictions is almost like a set of waves that threatens to overwhelm Amazon and Netflix, Acorn and Prime, even Binge (who thinks up these names – are we being asked to do something?). 

It’s almost as though, to escape the deluge, you have to take time out by watching the evening news where you’re confronted with a rotating crop of senior police officers or the Minister announcing another spectacular, million-dollar drug bust in another crappy suburban street. The news crew interviews neighbours but where does the fiction stop and reality start? It’s hard to see much difference between the raid on the perpetrator’s hideout in the OTT police procedural and the raid broadcast on the 6pm news and that takes place in an outer-western suburb when police seized $20-million-worth of precursor chemicals. 

“Meth.” “Death.” We use our TVs – another box – to escape from the boxes we construct to contain our errant personalities. McGuirk writes about these boxes in ‘Walls that Make up Boxes’: “Aren’t we all looking for walls around us and / a box to keep us safe from those scary things, / the cold things, / the things that try to get in when the world is dark? / We all have our walls and our boxes, / unless we don’t.” 

The paradox is that the demand for escape is never ending. If you read McGuirk’s work you’ll find something more expansive. It’s time for a different kind of poetry to preside, one that asks you to think.

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Matthew McGuirk

with Matthew McGuirk:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences and biggest influences currently?

Matthew:

I started writing as long ago as I remember, but I guess I felt serious about it in middle school, hand scrawling novels through spiral notebooks. In high school, I wrote a novel, which looking back at it now was really bad, but it was fun and seemed good at the time.
As far as influences, I read a lot of Stephen King in middle school and high school and really still do, so I’d say he was one of my first influences and I really respect his longevity, ability to craft such diverse stories and dedication to the craft. I really respect the writing in classic/canonical literature, but don’t necessarily think I would consider those huge influences on me, although anything someone reads has an impact on them and their writing. I also love writers like Ray Bradbury and HP Lovecraft and think both of them do such a nice job of creating these wondrous places and stories that people can just get lost in. Lastly, my current influences are just about anyone and anything I read and like from authors on Twitter or throughout social media because there is so much out there that just doesn’t get enough attention and is amazing.

Q2: Any pivotal moments when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Matthew: I think I always wanted to be a writer, but the pivotal moment for me was after the longest break I took from it, where I hadn’t written much at all in about 5 years. Last November, it just felt right to get back into it and I’ve crafted over 100 stories and 50 poems since then, had numerous pieces published and accepted for publication and now have my debut collection out! I don’t foresee myself giving up writing again!

Q3: Who has helped you most with writing?

Matthew: To be honest, my wife has the biggest impact on my writing because she is my first reader and is both my harshest critic and biggest fan when it comes to my writing. We don’t always agree on everything she says or thinks about my writing, but I alway listen with as clear a head as I can and appreciate the time she puts into reading the pieces and giving me her insight. There have been many pieces that have greatly benefited from her fresh pair of eyes. With others, I’ve stubbornly held my post for better or worse and kept them as they were because in the end writing is subjective and not everyone is going to like everything you write.

Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away from home influence your work?

Matthew: I think place greatly impacts my work. I grew up in rural New Hampshire and still live in a similar area. You’ll find pieces of my work that describe places similar to my childhood home very closely. I find nature to be a huge part of both my fiction and poetry and growing up surrounded by it no doubt ingrained a lot of these images into my mind. I haven’t traveled a lot, but we have moved several times and the idea of movement seems to play a big role in a lot of my writing as well. Lastly, contrast is integral to my work and I think the dichotomy between living in the country and living in the city for portions of my life is a huge influence on the pieces that deal with those topics.

Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?

Matthew: My hybrid collection, Daydreams, Obsessions, Realities that was recently released with Alien Buddha Press is my greatest and most meaningful piece that has been published thus far. Each of the stories or poems came to fruition as individuals, but when I began designing the collection I saw a flow and storyline that lived between them and I think this is one of the greatest impacts the collection has. The collection also deals with many important topics ranging from relationships, addiction, mental health, nostalgia, place and others and I think the variety of pieces and diversity in topics will really be able to reach and connect with a wide and varied audience. I loved creating and curating this collection and hope readers will love reading it just as much!

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Matthew: I have many activities that are enjoyable and relaxing, but playing with my daughter, hanging out with my wife and watching some TV, reading and writing are some of the top ones. I’d say outdoor activities like gardening and just being in nature would be up there as well.

Q7: What is a favorite line/stanza from a writing of yours or others? Or share a link to a favorite artwork or music video.

Matthew: I just love writing endings, so any time I can make someone say, “wow, I really liked that ending.” It just makes me smile! I don’t want to give too much away as far as specific lines go, but there are some good endings in my collection in my opinion!

As far as one of my favorite starting lines, it has to be from a piece that has had a few close calls, but actually hasn’t been published. The line is, “We’re guys that can get rid of things and that’s how we got in the position we’re in.” I love that it throws you right in the action and makes you wonder a little right at the start. I’m hoping some day a magazine will pick that story up, but if not it’ll end up in a collection and some readers will love it!

Q8: What kind of music do you enjoy? Favorite musical artists, influences, songs that inspire?

Matthew: I’m not one who can listen to music while writing, but I do enjoy a lot of different music. I think country music and classic rock would be my most frequented, but my wife’s Itunes list is diverse and we are sort of all over the map when listening to music.

Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?

Matthew: I really appreciate anyone who wants to check out or has read my book, Daydreams, Obsessions, Realities from Alien Buddha Press! A little background is that it’s a hybrid collection with a few more fiction pieces than poetry, but pretty balanced and some that blur that line anyways. As mentioned in one of the previous questions, they are separate pieces, but do tell a story when laced together as they are in this collection. I’d love to hear from people that are reading and how they are liking it too, those types of interactions are so cool. Thanks again to anyone who has picked the book up or is thinking about giving it a read, I really appreciate the support! 

Bonus Question: Are there any funny memories that you can recall during your writing journey or creative journey?

Matthew: I think the fact that I shared a portion of my terrible novel with a teacher when I was in high school at the time and now she’s a colleague is sort of funny because of how bad it was. She was encouraging though, which made it so I wasn’t deterred as a writer! I was definitely a little sheepish when I went to tell her I had some stories published online because of the previous piece I showed her. I guess in the end though, it just shows how much people grow throughout their creative journey and now I’m able to look back at that writing and see what would need to be scrapped and where there might still be some gems, which could be polished a little and turned into something nice.

I really appreciate the opportunity to answer these questions and thought they were really insightful and had me reflect on my work and journey as a writer. Thanks again, David and the team at Fevers of the Mind.

3 poems by Matt McGuirk

%d bloggers like this: