By Billy Tuite —

The Raw Deal continues to be a popular venue for artistic expression, as visitors were treated with a poetry reading from University of Wisconsin–Stout alumnus Matthew Roskowski on April 10. The reading coincided with the release of Roskowski’s new art and poetry book, “Poems to Eat Flowers With.”

Roskowski, who graduated from the Applied Social Science program in December, seems to be naturally poetic in all of his prose. Even in an email interview with him, some of his answers took the form of poetry. For instance, when asked about the general concept behind his book, he responded:

“POEMS TO EAT FLOWERS WITH is a ceremony/ is an applause/ is a collaboration between artists/ it is an adventure in subjectivity. POEMS TO EAT FLOWERS WITH was me allowing my ideas free reign, to dance, to copulate, etc.”

The book is Roskowski’s first foray into published writing. The compositions, written over a three or four-month period, offer a swath of introspective text. Roskowski is particularly honest and explicit in his pieces on love and sex, but he expresses no discomfort in sharing those writings.

“I write to share/ to communicate/ to suggest/ to beg your pardon/ to try to make people experience themselves and the world in new, irreverent ways,” Roskowski said. “I was not nervous to share the work.”

The book also represents Roskowski’s long-time struggle perfectly encapsulate a specific vision through his writing. Interestingly, he still considers the book a failure in that regard.

“I use a lot of repeated imagery and ideas throughout the poems,” Roskowski said. “One reason for this is because I am always trying to get a particular idea or image or whatever down perfectly, but this never happens.”

Fortunately, the collaborative nature of the book allowed Roskowski to approach this challenge in a unique way. Several poems in the book are accompanied by works of art created by local artists including Stout teaching assistant Jordan Clark and Raw Deal events manager Amber Georgakopoulos, just to name a couple. The artists’ work will also be on display at Raw Deal through the end of April.

“When someone reads one of my poems I always wonder, ‘what is this poem doing to them?’” Roskowski said. “To see the actual physical manifestations of their engagements with my work was like ‘flowers in the hands of manatees.’”

Roskowski deliberately took a hands-off approach with the visuals of the book. He simply asked each artist to pick a poem to center their art around and then left them to their own devices.

“The wonderful thing about the exchange was that there was no ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’” Roskowski explained. “The art created by the artists was a manifestation of their engagement with the poem. How could one say that their engagement was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’? It just is. It just was.”

Roskowski is already planning to take the opposite approach for his next book, in which he will have the artists create something and then respond with his own poems based on the artwork. Until then, Roskowski encourages all fans of literary and visual art to pick up “Poems to Eat Flowers With.”

“As the foreword says, ‘WE HOPE THIS BOOKS HELPS YOU EXPERIENCE YOURSELF IN A NEW, IRREVERENT WAY,’” Roskowski said. “I do not necessarily expect the book to completely upset the order of your being, but it is my hope that it turns you inward.”

“Poems to Eat Flowers With” is available for purchase at cordialquailpress.storenvy.com

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