Houghton Mifflin/ Mariner 2007

Winner of the 2006 Bakeless Literary Prize in Poetry, Selected by Mark Doty

Winner of the 2008 Larry Levis Reading Prize, Virginia Commonwealth University



Praise for Vellum


"Tirelessly vigilant, an original, scrupulous, eloquently plain-spoken secretary of the ordinary and extraordinary, the poet of Vellum not only knows “how dust freckles each lemon tree blossom,” but the bloody horror of Sudan, how Houdini died, how Guido of Arezzo invented the solfa, how Washington Crossing the Delaware was painted, and a hundred other odd and lovely particulars, all resolved (under the rubric “only connect”) to a kind of kinetic integrity by the sheer wit, ranging intelligence, honest feeling and unflustered fluency of Donovan’s braiding, bright, but never showy imagination. Knowing even “the pattern ruin makes,” he becomes a celebrant of the world’s (and art’s) variety, mystery, and enduring vitality—expanding and deepening our sense of “the unimaginables that surround us each day,” waking us again and again to “the moment’s/ sheer improbable fact, the out of nowhere inscrutable this.”   By drawing the layered moments of a genuinely examined life into “plenitudes of making, a bravura of fabrications,” Matt Donovan has assembled a remarkable, rich, joyous first collection." --Eamon Grennan

"Matt Donovan is a ravenous reader of the world, its signs and wonders, its atrocities and ecstasies. His extremities of diction and texture, his cinematic jump-cuts and dynamic syntax, create an impasto of “lit particulars” – clairvoyances that sear as much as they heal. In a spectrum ranging from uttermost tenderness to unspeakable outrage, Donovan bodies forth a cosmos where he is seized, undone, and remade by what he hears and what he sees. Reading these lines, I am constantly torn between turning away from the page and looking back: it is rare for poems to engage the nervous system so fully and in such a polyphonic fashion. Vellum is a work of scrupulous attention, a courageous act of devotion by a poet who sustains the tension between aesthetic and ethical impulses while touching the borders of imaginative freedom." --Philis Levin

"Again and again, these passionate poems work their magic:  the juxtaposed suddenly converges and the disparate unites to form one startling, seamless other." --Linda Bierds

"The depth of moral imagination and the huge range of reference in these poems makes clear the complicities between saints and sinners, artists and rulers, exploiters and exploited. They give us a world of fine distinctions between what we ought to feel and what we really do feel. Capacious, meditative, and deeply pleasurable to read, these poems sustain themselves by living up to Yeats's highest ideal for poetry: the attempt to hold reality and justice in a single thought." ---Tom Sleigh

"Mythographer, Sceptic, Seeker: Matt Donovan brings us Vellum, a modern-day Metamorphoses. From Houdini to Pliny, from the Cactus Lodge Motel to the Sistine Chapel to the back-yard patio, Donovan reveals our surprising, arresting, gods and monsters." ---Dana Levin