Living with a Visionary by John Matthias


This little book is published as a memorial to my late wife, Diana. I have written many poems to or about her during fifty years of marriage, as well as a certain amount of prose. The title section was published in the New Yorker on February 1, 2021. The essay must have touched a nerve among many readers, as I received literally hundreds of responses to the piece—email, old-fashioned mail in envelopes, phone calls, poems, even prayers—and I am not even yet finished answering all of them. I found the experience of hearing from so many readers very strange and utterly overwhelming. Many of those who wrote wanted to tell me their own stories, some of which were very painful to read. What I promised these readers was that I would try within a year to publish the essay in a context more permanent than the back issue of a magazine, even one as esteemable as the New Yorker. This booklet is an attempt to do that.

Since that publication, John Matthias has written a kind of coda, “Some of Her Things,” as an extended prose poem. The book also includes three short lyrics dedicated to the poet’s wife, Diana, at different periods of her life. Having lived for years with hallucinations caused by Parkinson’s disease, she died of Covid-19 in November 2020.


  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 60
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: October,  2021
  • ISBN 978-1-953252-38-8


In his afterword, Igor Webb writes, “The lament, uttered when love and death are most closely bound, is something like an essential accessory to mortality. . . . ‘Living with a Visionary’ is the poet’s account of his, and (and his wife) Diana’s, descent into hell. . . . But it’s in ‘Some of Her Things,’ a fable in the form of a long prose poem, . . . that Matthias most powerfully, and poignantly, deploys his language. . . . it is a courtly threnody for lost time.”


You would think it was a performance of some kind. When she wakes up, if she has slept at all, she tells me about the giants carrying trees and bushes on what she calls zip lines, which I am able to identify as telephone wires. Beneath the busy giants, she explains, there is a marching band playing familiar tunes by John Philip Sousa. She is not especially impressed by either of these things, and the various children playing games in the bedroom annoy her. “Out you go,” she says to them. Then she describes the man with no legs who spent the night lying beside her in bed. He had been mumbling in pain, but nobody would come to help him. She remembers her own pain, too. “I could hardly move,” she says.

And she can hardly move now. Her legs are stiff, her back is cracking as I lift her out of bed. Although still clearly in pain, she gives me a sly look and gestures with her chin toward the flowerpot in the hallway. “The Flowery Man,” she says. “He’s very nice.” . . .


John Matthias has published some thirty books of poetry, translation, criticism, and scholarship. For many years he taught at the University of Notre Dame, where he is still Editor at Large of Notre Dame Review. Shearsman Books publishes his three volumes of Collected Poems, as well as the uncollected long poem, Trigons, his two most recent volumes of shorter poems, Complayntes for Doctor Neuro and Acoustic Shadows, two books of memoirs and literary essays, and the novel Different Kinds of Music. Two collaborative books have been published by Dos Madres: Revolutions (with Jean Dibble and Robert Archambeau) and Regrounding a Pilgrimage (with John Peck). His most recent book is Some Words on Those Wars (Dos Madres, 2021).

Additional information

Weight 4.3 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .25 in