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Healing Words

after a spine injury, poet turns to the written word

Amelia Kimball, photos by Andrea Paulseth

ON THE WRITE SIDE. Matthew Walker’s new collection of poetry, Everything and Nothing Makes Sense, was part of a recovery process.
ON THE WRITE SIDE. Matthew Walker’s new collection of poetry, Everything and Nothing Makes Sense, was part of a recovery process.

Writing wasn’t something Matthew Walker ever thought he’d do with his life.

After a four-car pileup in 2007, Walker suffered a damaged spine. In his recovery process, his therapist recommended he use a creative outlet to release his feelings, so he started writing.

“Writing has been such an inspiration and healer,” Walker said.

As a psychology major, Walker said he always had an interest in reading, but writing developed over time. After seeing his therapist, his writing grew and evolved with emotion and metaphors, he said. He started to submit individual poems as teasers to different outlets to see if there was interest. It took about six months to find them, but Lulu (his publisher) and Walker clicked. He sent them a prepared manuscript with multiple poems, which eventually became the recently published collection, Where Everything and Nothing Makes Sense.

“I wanted to see my situation in a different light ... thinking about the deep sky and space, they seem so far away and spectacular looking at them in a different way.” – M.M. Walker on some of the themes in his new poetry collection, Where Everything and Nothing Makes Sense

The poems in the book go through several different themes, including love, darkness, pain, and time. The earliest poems from right after the accident are near the back. The Eau Claire writer said some of the poems are difficult to revisit. Poems such as “Blood Art” bring him back to the accident. He can see clearly exactly what happened. It’s important to look back at those moments and legitimize those memories for healing. It’s hard for the brain to comprehend because it’s like you’re living in the past and present, he said.

Walker said there’s something for everyone in his collection. While not everyone can relate to feelings of deep pain, as Wisconsinites most of us are quite familiar with winter, for example. He likes to write about the sky, rain, and especially thunderstorms. The universe gave Walker a way to see his life differently.

“I wanted to see my situation in a different light … thinking about the deep sky and space, they seem so far away and spectacular looking at them in a different way,” he said.

His average poem takes about a minute to a minute and a half to write. The first line always comes to him immediately, and the rest comes easily. He usually writes one to two poems a day. Edits are rare, because he likes the rawness of how it comes out the first time.

“It’s satisfying,” Walker said. “It comes out and just feels right.”

Poems about pain don’t come as frequently as they used to for Walker, thanks to a neurostimulator  implanted in his hip. What was once tremendous physical pain is dulled a bit now.

“To be free of that (pain), a lot of poetry is coming out differently than it used to,” he said. 

For those who are suffering in some way, but don’t know how to get out what they feel, Walker said he would encourage journaling or simply writing down key words. It validates emotions and memories as true and real when they can be seen on paper. With Walker’s poems, he said he hopes people will personalize them so they take away their own meaning and understanding.

This summer, Lulu expects to publish Walker’s science fiction novel, Relapse. A little after that, he said he plans to have more poems published. Walker also does custom pieces of writing for those who would like something special put into words. If interested, they can contact him through his website, matthewmwalker.com.

No matter what, Walker said he will definitely continue his poetic work. He hopes his writing can inspire and help others. Maybe someday he’ll work in psychology, but for now he has found happiness in sharing his experiences with others through written words.

Walker will be reading from Where Everything and Nothing Makes Sense at the Volume One Gallery at 7pm to share his story and poems. This event is free for all ages.

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