A Poetic Touch

Matt Stepanic works to keep Edmonton’s literary scene moving forward as recipient of Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund

Matthew Stepanic’s philosophy of writing poetry is quite simple: Do it when you can — but only when you can.

“I’m often writing a poem when I’m driving around or going for a jog — whenever the mood strikes,” he explains. “But I can’t follow that logic of ‘just get your butt in the seat and do it.’ If I only have 10 good minutes of poetry in me, that’s that, I’m not going to waste five hours working on it.”

Jason Purcell (L) and Matthew Stepanic (R), co-founders of the Glass Bookshop.

That kind of honesty and efficiency are necessary when you keep the schedule of Stepanic. Though he will confess poetry is his first love, 10-minute bursts sound about right when you consider that, since his last chapbook — 2018’s RuPaul’s Drag Race-inspired Relying on That Body — he has found the time to keep editing his literary magazine, Glass Buffalo, serve as the Edmonton Public Library’s 2019 writer-in-residence, premiere his first Fringe play, The 3AM Subtext, and found and shepherd his latest endeavour, Glass Bookshop, through the pandemic.

The relentlessness and vision required for that sort of resume are precisely what designer and Royal Bison impresario Vikki Wiercinski finds so inspiring about Stepanic, and why she felt he deserved recognition from the Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund.

“His ideas are one thing, but when you match it with that level of hard work and dedication year over year, it’s just …” she says, at a loss for words.  “He makes this place better, and he makes things that previously seemed impossible to writers in this city and creatives in this city seem possible.”

Appropriately, Stepanic is rather matter-of-fact about the overlap between his creative endeavours and community engagement: It’s the type of work that needs to happen to keep a scene strong. The fact that he finds genuine joy in wearing each of these hats is just gravy.

“I think the common thread in these things for me is that I found some joy in doing them, but I also got a lot of support from the community,” he explains. “I know that’s a way I can give back. What continues to make these projects successful is that there’s a literary ethos in Edmonton, and if we’re supporting it, it makes for a better art scene.”

To that end, the recognition of the Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund seems to strike Stepanic less as a gift than the next turn of the wheel of support that keeps Edmonton’s arts and literary scenes keep moving. Which is not to say he isn’t grateful for the opportunity to be able to spend a bit more time on his more private passion projects, which include another book of poetry and an experimental memoir about his experiences as a young gay writer.

“The last time I had free time,” he says wryly, “ I ended up publishing Relying on That Body, so we’ll see what comes out of this.”

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