Drought Resistant Strain by Mather Schneider

When I first began noticing his comments on HTMLGIANT, I was pretty convinced that Mather Schneider’s name was the alias of an anonymous writer venting freely online. Strangest thing… Mather’s a real individual and he was written a pretty great collection of poetry, Drought Resistant Strain, available from Interior Noise Press.

The many poems in this fine collection are small stories, the kind that make the ordinary extraordinary. It is certainly easy to find a few themes that run strong in this collection–snapshots of the elderly, pragmatic yet empathic accounts of encounters with strippers, call girls and aging hookers, poems from the borderlands of Arizona and the tensions between white men and Mexican women and accounts of the workaday life–but Schneider’s creative interests are broad, insightful and engaging.

One of the strongest elements of this collection is the way in which Schneider manages to surprise. For example, there’s a poem about that great battle between The Dollar Store, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar and Dollar General, in the poem “We’ve Always Been a Family Dollar Family.” Schneider’s work is no stranger to humor when he writes Yes, I know there are people who swear/by The Dollar Store, which is/ok I guess, you can get/some good deals sometimes, but you/see, at The Dollar Store everything really isn’t a dollar./At Family Dollar/everything’s a dollar./I think a name should reflect the/spirit of the store.

While there is an emotional distance in many of these poems, Schneider still manages to infuse his work with tenderness and real understanding such as in the poem, “Bulimia,” which is so good I will simply share it in its entirety. Further commentary is not necessary.

BULIMIA

Her arms are origami,
her head totters on a toy neck
and her back is bowed
like a bone violin.
She wants to be loved
for who she is,
for what she is inside:
she wants to be pure soul
but it’s all inseparable
and her soul is fading away
like her flesh,
like her gums and hair and teeth,
her ribs poking out
like an animal that’s traveled too far,
like some child or saint or martyr
who would crumble
if I tickled her.
When we hug goodbye
she’s so tiny
it’s like she’s a part of me:
my hands reach all the way around her
and touch the soft
tender places
under my arms.

Anyone who has worked as a telemarketer or bill collector will enjoy the suite of poems about the soul killing drudgery of such work where Schneider notes in “Three Weeks I’ll Never Get Back,” that Only the real masochists stuck/around long enough/to stand outside on/smoke breaks/and brag/behind the bullet proof building.

Drought Resistant Strain is a dense collection of poetry that is a real pleasure to read because every single poem in the collection is so damn readable and relatable. Mather Schneider has the poetic eye of a keen observer and he puts his skill to good use in his first full length collection. Run don’t walk to get your copy of this excellent book.

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