William Matthews's ten books have gradually earned him a place on the first roster of American poets -" as water licks its steady way through stone." " Very little of the poetry of the past twenty years," Henry Taylor has written in the Washington Times, " is more intelligent and engaging than that of William Matthews . .. Admiring gratitude seems perfectly appropriate." The New Yorker has described Matthews's work as " poems that revel in etymology and delight in colloquialism." And Carol Muske, in The Nation, has added: " If asked, I couldn't come up with a poet more in tune with the ironies and stand-up vernacular, the jazz of the everyday, than William Matthews . . . Matthews is a wise and fine poet and a funny person. Like time and money, an unbeatable combination. " This is a large-hearted book, a strong and worldly book, the work of five years by one of the most admired and generous of American poets. The National Book Critics Circle named it the winner of its 1995 award in poet
Late in his life, William Matthews left us with Time and Money, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. It is a meditation on loss and grace that some of us will be thinking about for a long time. "Bob Marley's Hair," which discusses the famed musician's dreadlocks falling out during chemotherapy, is as poignant as, well, "Babe Ruth at the End," the story of Ruth on his deathbed. The real gem, though, is "Dead Languages," a study in how, to use Frost's expression, "way leads on to way." Matthews tosses out fascinating examples of how words have evolved, how "Live English lugs a dead language inside." The way language mutates its way through the world, unconscious of its own changes, Matthews writes, isn't far from our own dimly understood lives: "We did what we did, we're / not proud nor ashamed, we led our lives / or they led us, and how would we know which?"