Coffee House Press | 2015

Coffee House Press | 2015

Listen to a podcast about Null Set on Saint Louis Public Radio, KWMU 90.7

Read an essay on Null Set by Dana Levin at The Bennington Review

Read an interview about Null Set with Lisa Wells in The Volta

Null Set begins with the word 'Nothing' and ends with a dazzling sequence called 'All,' and its mind is drawn towards the immaculate promises of conceptual absolutes. Its heart, however, clings to imperfect formulasnot those of math, but of intimate words and sounds. Mathys has a sparkling intelligence, a bracing capacity for wit and playfulness, and formidable technique, but the subject of Null Set is vulnerability: the struggles of bringing sufficient emotional exactness to acts of love, grief, devotion and imagination. This book asks poetry for guidance in a time of doubt. It yields, in turn, work of hard-won astonishments, moving, intense and humane.” —Mark Levine

“Somber, surprising, pitch-perfect, and carefully intelligent, the poems of Null Set infuse me with renewed faith in poetry's powers. I can almost feel new folds of my mind growing as I follow Mathys's images, logics, and deep reckonings with language, world, and soul.” —Maggie Nelson

“...A collection of cultured, emotionally vulnerable poems in which [Mathys] seeks meaning within the bounds of the absolute while simultaneously reaching toward the unknowable, even via negation and denial. Mathys alternates between two poles, employing a “smooth mindlessness” as he luxuriates in making phoneme smash-ups and, more often, constructing logical arguments in an effort “To routinize / failure into a form of hoping.” ...Skeptical of conventional poetic means of exploring vulnerability, Mathys overloads the system, crashes the hard drive, and then sorts through the bits.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“Spiritual crisis in the face of past and present ruin might remind us of Eliot...but these poems don't simply lament the failures of early twentieth century projects like logical positivism and high modernism; there a measured optimism in these poems. Where Eliot hoped to "shore" his fragments against ruin and thereby, at best, prevent further breakage, the poems of Null Set want to acknowledge the way in which we seem to “live / uneasily in the law of excluded middle" together, poised between our broken but shared inheritance and the tomorrow we might build out of it." —Rain Taxi Review of Books

Null Set is a varied and vibrant book, with so much energy released in the encounters between its actively patterned verse and daily life. A cool surface often generates, unexpectedly, tender emotion—as one might feel at being moved by a Gerhard Richter painting. The effect is sometimes mournful, occasionally astringent, but finally joyful in the way that evidence outstrips argument. This is wonderful poetry, full of intelligence without pretense, its art put toward a world of feeling.”—Devin Johnston

"Ted Mathys steer[s] again and again between the Scylla of Yes and the Charybdis of No, the clashing rocks of Something and Nothing, Thesis and Antithesis, and sails straight through to a third thing: a swerve, a surprise, which is one of the tells that this book is alive. —Bennington Review

“A null set looks like this: {  }. It’s sort of a fancy way of saying “zero”— if you’re a mathematician. If you’re a poet, it can become ... a portal for the messiness of real life to break though even the most neatly constructed equation. That’s exactly Mathys’ aim in this book.” —St. Louis Magazine

“A said thing is only a said thing—though it may be true—but you can just as easily say the opposite. What if the opposite sounds just as convincing?  (What if you were to negate the most famous lines in poetry?) [Ted Mathys] negates and reverses exhilaratedly, ending up somewhere near happiness, which may be a verbal state...” —Alice Notley

“The poems in Null Set are both erudite and accessible. If this comprises poetry mainstream enough for television, then bring it on… Mathys is a muscular poet forging a personal trail through American poetry.” —The Rumpus

“What impresses most about Null Set is how very full it is, how much of life is here... As we move through its virtual spaces—and as happens in strong poetry—the world comes strangely and familiarly both at and with us.  Of course, where we ultimately go (which may just be wherever we happen to stop) nobody knows, but Ted Mathys’ poems help us to think and to hope along our way.” —Graham Foust


                                  Coffee House Press | 2009

                                  Coffee House Press | 2009

“[Mathys] is a bit like the mid-century poets of the New York School of poetry (which counts John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara among its members), only with the whimsy replaced by a menacing sense of claustrophobia. You find he can go from high culture to low in one stomach-churning swoop . . . . wonderfully, disturbingly, upsettingly real. Reading Mathys, one remembers that poetry isn't a dalliance, but a way of sorting through life-or-death situations.” —L.A. Times

The Spoils navigates the difficult terrain that is the crossroads of aesthetics and politics. It’s not so much that such subject matter as Henry Kissinger crowd-surfing or soccer games as metaphor for nation-state games is so surprising in our post-everything era, as that one feels in the book’s subjects and forms Mathys in earnest serving two masters—Kissinger and Craft, as it were, a consulting firm from the beyond if there ever was one. I use the trope of serving masters advisedly, for power is one of the book’s central themes, and the power of the aesthetic holds unquestioned sway in these poems, ordering, compartmentalizing, beautifying, trying with all its might to find patterns, coherence, to contain the ecological mess of our historical moment that Mathys is chiefly concerned with.” —Donna Stonecipher


Coffee House Press | 2005

Coffee House Press | 2005

“Ted Mathys’s Forge is a remarkably original first book, an ‘ecstatic ekphrastic,’ as he calls it, made of lush and inventive language that has been arranged within a surprising structure. Readers might find that a far-fetched group of ancestors—for example, Agee, Baudelaire, Verlaine and Stevens—come to mind, but the world Mathys pictures is the strange kingdom of the present and the colors he uses are uniquely his own.” Susan Stewart

“With Forge a reader has opened the kiln door and pressed their lips to a steel-melting language.” —Cutbank 

“This is some first book! It opens with a haunting twist on the creation myth, and keeps on opening into big poems that are architecturally complex and socially attentive. Mathys has set them all in a postmodern languagescape of juxtaposition and refrain. These poems leap—sometimes dizzyingly—but they always land, and always on some new connection, lighting it up.” —Cole Swensen

“These are poems for the sons and daughters of the Rust Belt.” —Akron Beacon Journal 

“Not unlike hearing Art Tatum for the first time...Mathys's poems move so quickly, precisely, and gesturally that I'm tempted into the critical murk of superlatives and historical comparisons. I'll stop short, saying I'm just stunned.” —Jordan Davis

“With a kind of ‘all over’ technique, Mathys miraculously forges words onto the page in a kaleidoscopic voiceprint of the present zoom of daily life. This book hums and chortles, sparks and pops out of ‘the mouth of your gift horse held / open like a zero.’” —Peter Gizzi