Monkey Bars

by Matthew Lippman

Photo by Meriah Burman

Publication date: 10/06/2010
ISBN-13 (cloth): 978-0-984-49610-5
Pages: 72
Size: 6.5 x 8
Price (cloth): $21.95 $18.95
Best price anywhere!



“Lippman's poems fly straight into the center of trouble and joy of the moment because they are unafraid of dying. . . . I love 'em.”  —Tony Hoagland, 2008 Jackson Poetry Prize & author of Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty

“Lippman’s work guides us through loss & suffering as well as ecstatic joys & the angelic swells of the living body. . . . His poems are the work of the heart; beating, bruised, electric.” —Matthew Dickman, winner of the 2009 Kate Tufts Discover Award for All-American Poem

“A major poet. No bones about it.” —Juan Felipe Herrera,  2008 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry for Half of the World in Light

". . .[S]hock value [alternates] with the shocks of recognition, in this fast-talking, sometimes profane second collection. . . . [T]houghtful readers might first laugh, and then recoil, and then sympathize." —Publishers Weekly; read entire review here

" . . . Lippman creates a unique form of satire in his poems."  ––Foreword Reviews, "Titles Worth Noting"

Awarded BEST COVER DESIGN 2010 by Coldfront Magazine

Following his debut collection, The New Year of Yellow (Sarabande, 2007), Matthew Lippman takes his unmistakable style of poetry through the next evolution. Monkey Bars reveals a father’s “dollar driven” panic – concern about his children growing up in a world without bees and libraries but with too many overmedicated Americans­­ – one where Warren Buffett is the only person with any money. Despite the litany of worries, Monkey Bars reveals a deep awe for the human spirit and doesn’t hesitate to offer laugh-out-loud moments, as in “Dewey Decimaling,” where the narrator suggests morose librarians wary of their future should “drink more beer before work,” and, “no one should wear a bra.” Without a doubt, Lippman replaces the “blah” in poetry with a brave and silly bite, confirming his voice as a major force in twenty-first-century literature.


Monkey Bars comes in a beautiful hardback edition. The pages are thick and delicious, cut flush with the cover so that it opens perfectly in the palm of your hand. Additionally, each book comes with a letterpress band on the front, designed by the fine folks at The Firecracker Press, who also lightly illustrate this edition inside and out using images inspired by the book itself.

Read an interview with Matthew Lippman


“Matthew Lippman's rowdy,  bebopping, heroic-romantic poems are a lot of fun,  but it is the knowledge of tragedy—which you can't learn in poetry school—that fills them with the gravitas to make them heart breaking. Ardent is the word I think of, because these poems are passionate testimonies, to which the comic-imagistic cornucopias are finally secondary.  Lippman's poems fly straight into the center of trouble and joy of the moment because they are unafraid of dying. That's what they have to teach us. I love 'em.”

—Tony Hoagland, winner of the 2008 Jackson Poetry Prize and author of Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty

“Matthew Lippman’s poetry is the equivalent of having everyone you have ever loved standing in the kitchen together drinking champagne. But it’s not only a party. Lippman’s work guides us through loss and suffering as well as ecstatic joys and the angelic swells of the living body. The world is in these poems and it is a complicated place full of fear, bravery, regret, hope, meaning, and imagination. His poems are the work of the heart; beating, bruised, electric. For me, reading a Lippman poem not only ignites the moment and the self but also illuminates my life, and yes, makes me a better person.”

—Matthew Dickman, winner of the 2009 Kate Tufts Discover Award for All-American Poem

“When you read Lippman, you will read so deep and so fast and so alive, you won’t notice the Picasso-work, the deconstructions on race, time, culture and being. You won’t have time for that because you will be drinking at his magic fountain, that luminous wave hitting you in the face lighting your way through the abyss. I love his work, his thousand arms that embrace all of us. A major poet. No bones about it.”

—Juan Felipe Herrera, winner of the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry for Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems

“Matthew Lippman’s poems are completely and passionately alive. His wise gaze (simulateously old-world and hip-new) exalts, equalizes, and embellishes his subjects -- and strips them, too, of all pretension. His work resides in that rare place where intellect, heart, and sensibility meet so naturally, that all he needs to do, at this point in his artistic life, is put on his pants or eat a peach (or burrito or latke) and it becomes a poem. Through his absolute presence – and a big, garrulous presence it is – he invents new ways to love the human animal, and to do the work of repairing the world. His poems are gorgeous and renewing and I turn to them for sustenance of the most necessary kind.”

—Lia Purpura, winner of the 2009 Towson University Prize for Literature and 2007 Beatrice Hawley Award for King Baby



I don’t know when the shitstorm of failed marriage
took off.
I’m talking about people who I went to high school with,
to college and Italian villas—
where we could see Vesuvius and if we could not see it,
imagine it,
and if we could not do that either,
played with the sound of the word
as it rolled around like horny lovers
in the backs of our throats.

There was Jack and Lucinda,
who spent three years building banjos
that neither of them ever played
but the plants flourished in their stinky apartment near Gowanus
so who cared.
The question persisted:
Who the hell am I
and what the hell have I done?

Then there was Katie and Todd who loved
caviar and sparrows.
They wanted to have a kid and thank fuck they didn’t.
When Katie left she blew up Todd’s motorcycle
and the neighborhood kids ran down the block for a second
to see the debris
then went back to their basketballs and bong hits.

I wanted them to make it
for everyone on the planet. I wanted her cancer and his insatiable desire for
obese ladies
at the Target
to be beaten into death;
to prove to the 21st-century t.v. newscasters
that nobody knew what the hell they were talking about
when they newscasted on t.v.
that marriage was dying like an obese lady
in the lingerie department
at the local Target.

It felt weird,
like people weren’t getting divorced,
but more like they were dying—
crawling into the earth with the worms and roots
to hide away in horror
while their children ran to the school bus and the Batmobile
and the EZ Bake oven that, of course,
could never, ever, ever,
catch fire.

It made me want to beat up my mailman
and the woman who sold me my internet cable
and the telephone guy, Lou,
like all of this was some reflection on how we had forgotten to talk
to one another.
But it wasn’t.
It was age.
The age of worn out marriage pants,
untended. One leg torn at the knee,
the other, burned out in the crotch.
It was bad cloth, warped stitching, in-seams with no in
and I knew it.

And then I got hitched.

Eight years later,
my buddy Stu said to me:
How do you stay connected?
I said:
You want to stay close, stay close.
You want to be in love,
be in love.
It’s like watching t.v.
Like ping pong after dinner.
You pick up the clicker, you pick up
the paddle.

But who the hell was I?

Some mornings I get up and can’t tie my shoes.
I’m forty-four years old and can’t toast the seedless rye.
My kid cries because her hands are wet;
my wife undresses in front of open windows.
What am I supposed to do?
I wake up.
I say good morning.
I put on my pants.