“What’s amazing about having a twin brother is that if you can’t do something, he will,” said poet Michael Dickman to the crowd at Benaroya Hall last night. Michael began a poem called “Canopic Jars” years ago, and his brother, Matthew, not only finished the poem, but published it in his forthcoming Mayakovsky's Revolver, and dedicated the poem to Michael at last night’s reading. “This whole book is like the first one [I wrote],” Matthew said later on, after a reading a piece about a dead sibling. “It’s all, like, super ‘up.’” In an untucked shirt and open jacket, Matthew looks just like his poetry sounds: casual and free. Lines stream together like spoken word, packed with imagery and lacking in punctuation. His poems are full of drugs, death, gravestones, whiskey. Matthew writes about experiences that are not – not known, not existing, not tangible. He couldn’t be more different from his brother.
The brothers do share an infectious sense of humor and a new book of poems called 50 American Plays, their first collaborative work. The collection contains “full-length” plays about each state in the US (plus one each for Guam and Puerto Rico). Each play ranges from a few lines to a page and are full of ridiculous characters – llamas, mountains, cockroaches. The stage directions, which Matthew deemed “impossible and aloof,” are characters unto themselves. The twins called two volunteers up on stage to help read several plays. The four performed nonsense scenes taking place in the fields of Idaho and the bathtubs of Hawaii. In between pieces, the brothers grinned and joked about how none of it made any sense.