Paperback Price: $15.95
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-938584-27-5

Selected Poem


the musket sulks in the corner.
Not only is it exhausted, it feels
utterly humiliated. A pack of wild
school kids huddles around
the display case, bored,
terribly skeptical that this device--
with its smoothbore barrel
and cherrywood stock--could have ever
punched a hole in a bewildered soldier.
They scribble a few notes then dash off
to some flashier exhibit:
an early land mine perhaps,
or a car window used in a modern drive-by.
How lonely the musket feels, forgotten
in its glass prison, dust on its muzzle,
dust in its mouth. Send me back to the end
of the eighteenth century, it thinks.
There, it stalked the battlefields,
a God without mercy. Blood on the blades
of grass, blood on its bayonet,
a hungry tooth. A celebration
thunder-stomping its way through the smoke.
Cannon songs. Banners waving in the dark.
There were fewer stars, it thinks, on the flag
back then, but more in the sky.

Contradictions in the Design

“The poems in Olzmann’s [Contradictions in the Design] thrill the reader with straightforward insights regarding the natural and human world thanks to their humor, diversity of topics, startling metaphors and profound observations.”
Tupelo Quarterly

Contradictions in the Design is a firehouse of a book—heaven-bent and relieved toward elemental mysteries that it resists and celebrates. Telegraphing the factories of Detroit, our familiar and strange American homes, the vast Blue Ridge, Olzmann guides us toward a hard-earned gratefulness that can exist when in the presence of impossible questions. We are not given easy answers but lucid and heartbreaking portraits of a brave conscientiousness. Olzmann is the one to watch.”
—Sarah Gambito

“Matthew Olzmann’s poetry is that rare thing that embraces complication while, at every turn, filling us with wonder. Contradictions in the Design incorporates ‘patterns among celestial bodies, the mysteries of Christ, X + Y, crossword puzzles, free will,’ but also the playfulness and oddities of life that allow us to laugh hardest at ourselves. Desire, Supervillains, Moby, and ‘the idea of Moby’: prepare yourself to be dazzled.”
—C. Dale Young



  1. BULL PEN: 25 JANUARY 2016 The Blizzard Edition – Bull City Press - January 25, 2016

    […] BCP alum Matthew Olzzman will be releasing his next full-length book of poems this fall. Look for Contradictions in the Design coming from Alice James […]

  2. Bull Pen: 18 April 2016 – Bull City Press - April 18, 2016

    […] & author of Mezzanines (Alice James Books) and the forthcoming Contradictions in the Design (Alice James Books), has work available to hear at From the […]

  3. What I’m Reading Now … by Jaswinder Bolina | Tarpaulin Sky Press - January 4, 2017

    […] Victoria Chang’s The Boss, Patrick Rosal’s Boneshepherds, and Matthew Olzmann’s Contradictions in the Design. Every one of these books has been rearranging my relationship to reality by way of their bizarre […]

  4. Matthew Olzmann Reads at Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference 2016 - February 1, 2017

    […] is the author of the poetry collections Mezzanines and Contradictions in the Design (both from Alice James Books). His writing has appeared in Kenyon Review, Waxwing, Brevity, Gulf […]