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New Release: Lossless by Matthew Tierney

New Release: Lossless by Matthew Tierney

By Coach House Date: May 07, 2024

Happy pub day to Lossless by Matthew Tierney!

Tech-inspired sonnets and prose poems that decode a life through the experience of loss.

Tierney’s new collection takes its title from lossless data compression algorithms. It positions the sonnet as lines of code that transmit through time and space those ‘stabs of self,’ the awareness of being that intensifies with loss of relationships, of faith, of childhood, of people.

The qualities of light, colour, and movement in the sonnets conjure a sense of arrested time, of dust motes in the air. Playing against this intimacy are loopy chapters of Borgesian prose poems – with appearances from Duns Scotus and Simone Weil, Wittgenstein, Niels Bohr and others – that extract knowledge from information to reconstruct the source experience into a subjectivity, a personality, and a life.

"Tierney tracks and backtracks in the realm of dispossession like a cross between a physicist and a magician from a future era. These poems are new forms for human heart and quiddity.” – Anne-Marie Turza, author of Fugue with Bedbug

"In this wise, wonky, poignant avowal of error and losslessness, Matthew Tierney geotags his 'freefall of associative memory,' where the past flickers presently and futures bend toward the start. Invoking the dogmas of digital media, quantum mechanics and philosophy, Lossless is the devlog of a child becoming father of the man. A 'greybeard & tweener' at once, Tierney conjures his Gen Xer youth—neighborhood bullies, the first kiss, jogging with a Walkman on—to tweak his hi-fi output as a husband and fumbling dad. Given a spacetime continuum offering 'viaducts of alternate choices,' in which everyone, at the molecular level, is 'swappable soma' at best, Tierney parses 'compossible paths' from 'incompatibilism,' trying to track the quirks and quarks of multidimensional life. In troubleshot sonnets and corrupted prose, this book is an ode to the lost art of losing gracefully." Andrew Zawacki, author of Unsun


A quick Q&A with Matthew Tierney

Q: What drew you to sonnets when writing Lossless?

A: Lossless delineates my life. It’s an aggregate of present moments, through childhood to fatherhood and mid-life, and the sonnet is its spatiotemporal building block.

I’d say the sonnet is a standard unit of poetry. Quantifiable, fourteen lines (more or less). It’s both episodic and singular, fitted to human thought. Some have posited that the time it takes to hold each line in your head is equivalent to what the brain considers as “now.” And the volta or turn that traditionally happens around line eight is thought to mirror the golden ratio, a division found throughout the biological world. 

I’m trotting out those two well-trodden points not to suggest that my sonnets play ball with conventional constraint (though they are strictly fourteen lines). Only that there was a rightness to the sonnet, a familiarity, a rhythm, a naturalness. It was the piece of technology that came most readily to hand. I was trying to nail down memory, and the sonnet was my hammer.

Maybe the book in its entirety is a sonnet. The sequence of the book is achronological, across three sections, and at the end of the second section my son is born. It’s a turn I didn’t see coming (we’re an adoptive family).

Q: Where did the title come from?

A: The book is a catalogue of losses, the momentous, quotidian ones we all experience—loss of people, childhood, faith, memory, hope, etc.—but it’s also a joyful book. 

What do I mean by that? Every joy we have is tinged by a sense of joy’s absence. This absence or lack is an awareness that defines the parameters or the shape of the joy—here it is, and there it goes—lost. But the reverse is also true! Loss is tinged with awareness that life offers up joy. The title aims to capture this, to equate joy as losslessness. 

Another concern of the book is how information becomes knowledge or understanding. “Lossless” is the name of a method of data compression, how we transfer information digitally. This plays out in the book in two genres, the sonnets and prose poems. Each has a poet-narrator; let’s call them prose-Matthew and a verse-Matthew. The prosaic me is urging the poetic me to give form to meaning: “It was the last nostalgia: that he / Should understand,” says Wallace Stevens.

Q: What differences did you notice writing your fifth book than your previous ones?

A: Each book gets harder and more taxing to write. The highs are more difficult to sustain. The lows are less lows than “evens,” which extend for longer and lull you with an acceptance that everyday living is enough to make a life. That you don’t need to write poems on top of everything else.

There’s no “but” coming. I don’t know where my next book will come from, and I don’t know when. I only know it’s going to be a pain.


Book Launch: Lossless by Matthew Tierney with Karen Solie


Wednesday, May 8, 2024 @ 7:00 PM
Noonan's Irish Pub
141 Danforth Ave. Toronto, ON

RSVP here: