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Evan J. Peterson Reviews Narcissus Resists for The Rumpus

Posted in Uncategorized on August 4, 2010 by matthewhittinger

Evan J. Peterson gives a thorough and thoughtful review of Narcissus Resists at The Rumpus.  Here’s a preview:

Despite what brooding know-it-alls in your workshop or writer’s circle tell you, Greek mythology is neither dead, nor tacky, nor useless to contemporary poetry. With Narcissus Resists , Matthew Hittinger provides readers with a crown of fourteen sonnets, each developing the character of the man-child smitten with his own image in an image-obsessed contemporary culture, all intermingled with five ekphrastic meditations on Dali’s “Metamorphosis of Narcissus.” Hittinger pulls in inspiration and language from Ovid (of course), Eliot, James Bidgood’s remarkably indulgent film Pink Narcissus, Jeanette Winterson, Angela Carter, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty.


As a chapbook, Narcissus Resists works. Across nineteen poems, a conceit such as this can get old, but Hittinger keeps his book compelling and engaging. The glimpses of Dali’s painting, interspersed with the snapshots of Narcissus’ misadventures, provide the momentum necessary. Momentum alone would not be sufficient, but the language is clever and luxurious enough to keep one reading.

Click to read the whole thing!

The Genesis of The Metamorphosis of Narcissus

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 5, 2010 by matthewhittinger

Here is Salvador Dali’s 1937 oil painting Metamorphosis of Narcissus, referenced in the five sections of the same title in Narcissus Resists:

I wrote “Metamorphosis of Narcissuss” in Provincetown during the summer of 2002 when I was taking Mark Doty’s advanced poetry workshop and workshopped this poem in his class. I had originally included it in The Erotic Postulate (I later removed and replaced it with “Square Dance”), thinking that its tone was so opposite the sonnet sequence that they had to be kept far apart, in different manuscripts.  But then one day I was playing around and spliced it with the sonnet sequence and loved how the different tones played off each other, how its five sections broke up the sonnets and created almost “chapters” for the narrative of the sequence.  Narcissus Resists was born.

Narcissus Resists and Pink Narcissus

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 10, 2009 by matthewhittinger

Around the time Narcissus Resists was released poet Andrew Demcak wrote his five-part poem sequence Pink Narcissus in response to the 1971 James Bidgood film, which I also reference in the “Celluloid” section of Narcissus Resists.  Andrew was kind enough to dedicate his poem to me in celebration of the release of Narcissus Resists (very sweet Andrew, thank you!).

You can read Andrew’s mini e-chap HERE.  (Yes, that’s me on the cover, a painting courtesy of the very talented Didi Menendez who published both our projects).

Grady Harp was also kind enough to review Andrew’s project:

Demcak has approached Hittinger’s superb work much the way music composers pay homage to colleagues, e.g. Brahms’ ‘Variations on a Theme by Haydn’, Rachmaninov’s ‘Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini’, among others. In doing so he enriches our experience with Hittinger’s work while continuing to prove his own important standing as a poet unafraid to explore shrouded psyches. An excellent accomplishment and an exciting poetic response to a current colleague! And it is stunningly set off by the art of Didi Menendez who also published this fine work.

Click HERE to read the whole review.

As for more about Pink Narcissus, it was shot on 8mm film and takes you through a surreal sequence of erotic fantasies.  Here’s a still from the film:

Grady Harp Reviews Narcissus Resists

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 20, 2009 by matthewhittinger

Grady Harp, an Amazon Top 10 Reviewer, was kind enough to review Narcissus Resists.

Here is the full review:

“Matthew Hittinger and Further Discoveries in Language and Art”

Matthew Hittinger in this his second book of poetry (see Pear Slip) seems content to focus on a single thought or idea or object or myth or mood and explore it so fully that the reader of his collections of artfully graceful poems feels invited to become more visually and emotionally and verbally receptive to the many facets of the world that surrounds us, a world too frequently lost in the busy-ness of life as we lead it.

The very title of this brief but magical collection – Narcissus Resists – suggests more than the initial response indicates. In this collection of fourteen ‘sections’ of one long poem about the mythical Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection in the water, Hittinger provides five breathing spaces (“Metamorphosis of Narcissus I – V” apparently meditations on Salvador Dali’s 1937 oil painting Metamorphosis of Narcissus) in the manner that visual artists use jade or resin resists to coat a surface with a substance that protects certain areas of a work from holding pigment or image, a delicate technique that results in seemingly multiple layers of visual information. OR the poet may simply be offering us fourteen manners in which the narcissist hero approaches verges of temptation and seduction and encounters with the strange new world of now so different from the world and time of Narcissus’ origin and time.

Hittinger opens his collection with questions: ‘Am I the favor seeker, or the favor sought? Why seek at all, when all that I desire is mine already?’ He then weaves this confident muse through challenges to his ownership of beauty – in movie houses, clubs, websites, brawls and wonderful plays on words and ideas from mythology. In ‘Clubbing’ our hero of sorts experiences ‘…A quiet/ night at the Inn, the air clear, prismatic,/ dance floor empty save for a reflection/ caught in a mirror. His eye knew beauty,/ knew his body but not his body, the face/ that lasts as long as one spun lozenge.’ Or in ‘Cover Story’, ‘Water cut a deal with the tabloids:/ catch those cheekbones, parted lips,/ the ice blue star in each eye, a simple/ first assignment. Narcissus never/ showed, so Water froze a faux snap-/ shot, afraid of editorial wrath.’

Exactly what Matthew Hittinger intends with this multilayered and timeless survey of Narcissus may elude us all. But what does pour out of these pages is poetry of biting satire of our preoccupation with surface beauty or self or delusions of other’s perception. And beneath the graceful humor and multiple layers of meaning lies the secure ‘verbal resist’ of an eloquent poet’s mastery of his medium. Hittinger grows in importance with each new publication of his work. Highly recommended.

-Grady Harp, February ’09


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 15, 2009 by matthewhittinger

One of the many images informing Narcissus Resists is this massive drawing by the artist Jess (Burgess Collins), poet Robert Duncan’s long-time companion and lover. This is all graphite on paper and collage paste-up; Jess began it in 1976 and finished it in 1991:

I first saw it at SFMOMA back in March 2005 when I was visiting friends in San Francisco and couldn’t tear myself away, transfixed on all the glorious detail and resonance with my own interpretation of the Narcissus story.  I knew I had to reference the image in some way and found it worked well in the end lines of the “Concomitant” section where I conflate the image of Narcissus and Apollo depicted here, turning Narkissos into the sun god for a brief moment..

Narcissus Resists Released

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on February 19, 2009 by matthewhittinger

I am pleased to announce the release of my new chapbook Narcissus Resists.

In keeping with the spirit of the sequence, the chapbook is available both online and in print. You can order a copy through Amazon or CreateSpace, read the online interactive version, and even listen to audio of me reading it.

Special thank-yous to Didi Menendez at MiPOesias who helped this project finally see the light of day, to Sean Keogh for the recording session, and to Connie Brady who lent me work for the front and back covers.  You can hear Sean’s work here and contact Connie here to see more of her work.