These are not the potatoes of my youth by Matthew Walsh
This month, we suggested perusing our complete list of poetry, and we just had to take our own advice. First on our pile of poetry rereads is Matthew Walsh’s These are not the potatoes of my youth, a collection described as “equal parts heart-tingling and hilarious” by Canadian Literature. Anyone else suddenly remember seeing potatoes all over their Twitter feed? If not — and this collection somehow flew under your radar — now’s the time to add it to the TBR pile. But don’t wait for us to convince you; enjoy this reading of “Moonshot” by the poet themself first.
These are not the potatoes of my youth — the confessional debut poetry collection by Matthew Walsh — follows the poet's journey to self-understanding. The poems travel through Walsh’s childhood in rural Nova Scotia, later roaming across the Prairies and through the railway cafés of Alberta to the love letters and graffiti of Vancouver. In this nomadic journey, Walsh explores queer identity set against an ever-changing landscape of what we want, and who we are, were, and came to be.
The poems begin with the poet’s personal walks as Walsh discovers the ever-changing world around them. In the poem “Downtown Convos”, we learn how important walking is for the poet, as it helps the poet see the world differently. The shift from a poem titled “I love to walk” to “I let a guy once come on my eyes . . .” exemplifies the comical realities of the poet’s experience. The frequent use of the pronoun “I” allows for us as readers to connect with Walsh’s journey of self-discovery.
Walsh is a storyteller in verse, their poems laced with catholic "sensibilities" and punctuated with Maritime vernacular. In These are not the potatoes of my youth, Walsh illuminates the complex choreography of family, the anxiety of individuality, and the ambiguous histories of stories erased, forgotten, or suppressed. Poems in this collection range from long and freewheeling, to character sketches and meditations all set against the backdrop of the rural Canada where Walsh grew up. Adventures on the Greyhound and visitations from ghosts and psychics encapsulate this collection, which interrogates what it means to be an individual in a place where you are taught to act “normal” despite what you feel and what you have come to desire most.
Matthew Walsh hails from the eastern shore of Nova Scotia and has twice travelled by bus across Canada. Their poems may be found in the Malahat Review, Arc, Existere, Matrix, Carousel, and Geist. Walsh now lives in Toronto.
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