Behind the Words: Matt Lucas

Posted by on Jan 10, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Matt Lucas is a student, short story writer, and boxer who specializes in muay Thai and enjoys reading escapist literature. He is currently at work on an undergraduate degree in English. His flash piece “The Boxer’s Soliloquy” appears in Issue One of Spry Literary Journal.

 

Rachael: Between your author photo and the subject of your flash piece “The Boxer’s Soliloquy,” I have to assume that you’re a boxer yourself (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). What initially drew you to boxing? What drew you to writing? What roles do prose and pugilism play in your life?

Matt: I’ve been boxing for about six years, mainly doing muay Thai, a ring sport akin to boxing, but along with punching, the pugilist can knee, elbow and kick. […] I started doing muay Thai recreationally, just as exercise. […]I didn’t want to go to school, I didn’t want a life subsumed by work, and I didn’t want to drink all the time, so I decided to go to the gym more. […] Then I decided to go to Thailand. I’d never been abroad before and going to Thailand is basically the muay Thai fighter’s mecca. I studied Thai for a year, learning the language at a local temple, and went to Thailand. I trained six days a week for six hours a day. I fought. I came home. I decided that it was something worth doing. I kept training and fighting, returning to Thailand twice more and fighting over there a handful of times and more than a dozen times here in the States.

Reading is what drew me to writing the most. I love to read. At an early age, I read escapist novels to get out of my dreary pubescent existence (I didn’t have the happiest of childhoods, but who has?) […] My shift from reading to writing, or rather when I began to write, was when I was in college. I started a journal, and later I started writing letters to my friends that moved. […] I didn’t really start writing stories until I was kicked out of college. I never really thought that much about writing short stories, although I did enjoy the lower-level composition classes I took where I wrote a story or two. I began to write stories more actively as I began to do muay Thai and box. I was having all these interesting experiences that I hadn’t really heard about before, and so I began to write, and to read boxing literature. There is a pretty decent amount of boxing literature out there, but sadly there hasn’t been much good material published in the last few decades.

Pugilism and prose seemed at first very separate to me; after all, who can write with boxing gloves on? But then they became more intertwined. Isn’t boxing just the language of the body? A punch—a period. A knock out—an exclamation! Receiving an eight count—a slow-refereed question: Stand? Stay Down? Stand? Stay Down? The story of each match became a dialogue between two contestants, written with their bodies, with their willpower, with rapidly beating hearts and muscles that bind on their bodies like the ridges of grenades.

That said, both play a pretty active part in my life. I’d ideally like to write as much as I work out, but that has yet to happen. I fear I am lazy.

 

“The Boxer’s Soliloquy” relies heavily on repetition, onomatopoeia, and short, staccato sentences to effectively recreate the feeling of a fight. What drew you to these stylistic choices?

For this short piece I was heavily influenced by an essay by Jean Fisher from an academic coffee table book called Boxer: An Anthology of Writings on Boxing and Visual Culture. Fisher’s essay, “James Coleman’s Box (Ahhareturnabout)” tells of James Coleman’s art project in which he looped a black and white 16mm boxing match between Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey. The film has a voiceover of the men grunting, of the wet slap of gloved hand beating on flesh, and Tunney’s interior monologue. The soundtrack is evidently “composed of disjointed words and phrases orchestrated with a low pulse, whose beat, together with expressive, non-verbal, bodily or guttural utterances (guns, sighs, laboured breathing), captures us in an erotically emotional register.”

When you fight, you actually don’t think of much. Things come in flashes. Your mind thinks: Punch. Block. No, block right! What happened? Cross. Stay busy. Relax. Breathe. Is he tired? What is the referee saying. Parry! Cross. Jab, jab, hook! I am on the ropes. Who is in the crowd? And all of those spur of the moment thoughts disappear as soon as they come. It seems like you should recall everything that happens; after all, it’s such an important event, but usually, until you are more experienced and more relaxed, you don’t remember that much. So I suppose my experience as a fighter led me to use the elements that I did, short staccato sentences, repetition, and onomatopoeia.

 

I know that for many authors (myself included), it’s hard to write action scenes that depict the actual violence of something like a fight while balancing that chaos with internal character reflection. “The Boxer’s Soliloquy” captures all of that so well–the line “How much of my life have I missed?” is particularly poignant. How did you find that balance?

Uh… I didn’t really realize there was a balance between internal character reaction and violence. Most people, after a violent episode, don’t have time [to deal] with the actuality of the violence as it’s happening, they don’t really have internal character, they are being pistol-whipped, their iPhone is being grabbed, their pockets rummaged. They are hardly thinking at all. Their reaction only comes after, so really there is no balance. There is violence and then the internal character reaction. Going back to your quoted line, when you get a knock down or an eight count in a match you can’t always remember what happened, so you’re struggling to both remember what happened in the past, to gain control of the present, and prepare for the future and probably potential onslaught by your opponent. It is all rather confusing. It’s nice of you to think that I achieved some sort of balance in terms of writing technique but I don’t think there is much balance. Maybe I got lucky?

 

Besides boxing, what other topics are you drawn to, writing-wise? What else do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Besides boxing, I write a lot about disconnect and alienation both as a human condition and as a product of capitalism. I’m not sure what and how much the difference is between the two sources are, but people are definitely estranged from life. I also spend my time hanging out with my girlfriend, my friends, reading, waiting tables (as a job—not for fun), finishing an undergraduate degree (English major) and making as many underhanded comments to get a rise out of people as possible.

Rachael Warecki is an alumna of Scripps College, Loyola Marymount University, and the Teach for America corps. She recently received her MFA in fiction from Antioch University Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in The Masters Review, The Los Angeles Review, and Midwestern Gothic, and is forthcoming in Connu. She lives in Los Angeles and is currently at work on a novel.

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