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Matthew Batt

Hi Nik!

It was so good to see you at the most civilized/weird AWP ever. I felt like we were at some strange river-oriented Texan theme park right before we all were shot off onto our separate moon missions. How are you guys holding up these days? I’m hoping Flagstaff is far and high enough away from the rest of the world that things won’t get too bad there, but it just kind of feels like there’s no telling. I imagine you’re teaching online—to the extent that any of us are “teaching.” Is Erik working? I hope he’s mostly just trying not to get shocked by his Telecaster. I hope your kiddo is able to get some good runs in. Running is the only thing keeping me any kind of sane these days. I’m still training for a marathon that was cancelled a month ago. Makes as much sense as anything does.

Anyway, we’re all doing okay. I imagine that you saw on FB that Jenae’s brother died. That happened right when everything started to get weird. He was hospitalized on March 16, I think, and by the next day they were saying that nobody could visit, but because he was in the oncology wing, they made all kinds of exceptions for us. Still, it was so weird and fraught and terrible, but it was also the last time anybody was able to be together with anybody other than immediate family. In that way it was strangely beautiful. Hey! I just realized it’s 5:16—I made it all day without a drink! Small wonders will get us through. That and box wine. Boxes and boxes of box wine. And home cooking. It’s how I spend a solid three hours of every day. I caught myself recently having baked hamburger buns, a loaf of that Jim Lahey no-knead sourdough, and a batch of cookies.

I keep wanting to make chile verde—I’d never had it before you made it for us when we all lived in the Avenues—but none of the home delivery services ever have tomatillos. Makes me feel like such a prima donna to use such services—I never thought I’d miss grocery stores so much! MN’s stay-at-home order ends this Friday, but we’ll see about that. So I was putting together a presentation on emerging forms of creative nonfiction and was researching the braided essay and was literally halfway through an article on the form in when I realized it was written by you! And then I found the adaptation of the talk you gave in Iceland—or maybe it was the other way around? Made me so happy.

Which got me to thinking about all of our people we missed at AWP—Ander and Robin and David and Jacob and Paisley and . . . everybody—and then I got to thinking about Paisley’s Mapping SLC and that sweet 7 Rings game of telephone we all played on the Huffington Post you and Rebecca Campbell created.

And then I got to thinking, are any of us doing anything, you know, right now, like that but about all this nonsense? So this is very half-baked, but I’m wondering what if we all played some kind of long-distance game with each other? And because, like everybody, I’m constantly thinking about the virus, I was wondering if we could find a way to play such a game, but virally. Virtually virally, that is.

Something simple like we write letters and ask: How are you? Then when each person replies they also write to somebody else? I don’t know. I literally just had the thought and had to share it with you.

It would be cool if we could do it in such a way that it could lend a little light and relief to everybody, but also give folks some visibility in a time when we all kind of feel invisible even though we’re always all too visible on Zoom or whatnot.

I don’t know, I’m just spitballing and trying to buy time until I open my second beer. Probably somebody smarter has already had the thought and such stuff is already in the works in which case, sweet, less work for us. But if not . . . what do you think?

Anyway, my dear, we all miss you and hope you and all your lovelies are well. Let us know how you are!

Take care,


PS I had a dream about a German shepherd named Burt Reynolds. Obviously that isn’t his real name. His real name is Fritz Von Yeast and he’s a realtor in St. Paul when he’s not, you know, shepherding.

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