Matthew Olzmann


Matthew Olzmann (?-present) is a mixed race poet from Detroit, Michigan. He received his BA from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and an MFA from Warren Wilson College. Olzmann is the author of the collections Mezzanines and Contradictions in the Design and currently teaches at Dartmouth College and MFA program at Warren Wilson College. Source

Letter Beginning with Two Lines by Czesław Miłosz

You whom I could not save,

Listen to me.


Can we agree Kevlar

backpacks shouldn’t be needed


for children walking to school? 

Those same children


also shouldn’t require a suit

of armor when standing


on their front lawns, or snipers

to watch their backs


as they eat at McDonalds.

They shouldn’t have to stop


to consider the speed

of a bullet or how it might


reshape their bodies. But

one winter, back in Detroit,


I had one student

who opened a door and died. 


It was the front

door to his house, but


it could have been any door,

and the bullet could have written


any name. The shooter

was thirteen years old


and was aiming

at someone else. But


a bullet doesn’t care

about “aim,” it doesn't


distinguish between

the innocent and the innocent,


and how was the bullet

supposed to know this


child would open the door

at the exact wrong moment


because his friend

was outside and screaming


for help. Did I say

I had “one” student who


opened a door and died? 

That’s wrong.


There were many. 

The classroom of grief


had far more seats

than the classroom for math


though every student

in the classroom for math


could count the names

of the dead.


A kid opens a door. The bullet

couldn’t possibly know,


nor could the gun, because

“guns don't kill people,” they don't


have minds to decide

such things, they don’t choose


or have a conscience,

and when a man doesn’t


have a conscience, we call him

a psychopath. This is how


we know what type of assault rifle

a man can be,


and how we discover

the hell that thrums inside


each of them. Today,

there’s another


shooting with dead

kids everywhere. It was a school,


a movie theater, a parking lot.

The world


is full of doors.

And you, whom I cannot save,


you may open a door

and enter 


a meadow, or a eulogy.

And if the latter, you will be


mourned, then buried

in rhetoric. 


There will be

monuments of legislation,


little flowers made

from red tape. 


What should we do? we’ll ask

again. The earth will close


like a door above you. 

What should we do?


And that click you hear?

That’s just our voices,


the deadbolt of discourse

sliding into place.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:





Doubt & Fear


Violence & War

Literary Devices:


the repetition of the same letter or sound at the beginning of words appearing in succession


a line break interrupting the middle of a phrase which continues on to the next line


a short quotation or saying at the beginning of a book or chapter, intended to suggest its theme


words or phrases repeated one after another in quick succession


a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic


a recurrence of the same word or phrase two or more times

Rhetorical Question

a question asked for effect, not necessarily to be answered