Beginner’s Guide to a Head-On Collision

In Beginner’s Guide to a Head-On Collision Sebastian Matthews offers a glimpse into his painful yet transcendental journey of healing a broken body, mending a shattered soul, and the utter zeal of making a layup when you thought that would never again be possible. With honesty and wit, this poetic memoir demonstrates how, chipped piece after chipped piece, Matthews and his family put together their fractured lives after nearly losing them in a head-on collision.


Beginner’s Guide to a Head-On Collision offers the deeply moving poetic memoir of Sebastian Matthews’s life in the years after the car accident that devastated him and his wife and son. The poems, which often read like electric improvised prayer-songs, intimately evoke the terrors and wonders of catastrophic physical injury and of ‘life re-booted.’ They are disturbing, eerie poems that embody the paradoxes of being The Dead Man at the crossing. They are amazingly honest in their hopeful, mystical sense of fate. In this unforgettable book, the reader is present at the scene of the accident where the hovering spirit that has departed the body addresses the living person re-entering his brokenness and answering for his transcendent awareness.” — Kevin McIlvoy, author of The Complete History of New Mexico

“It cleaves the life. An auto accident. Moving it into before and after. Parts of this postcataclysm instruction manual read like a dream, as if what is happening is happening both to the self in toto–batted, fractured, spliced and reconstructed–as well as to another self that watches, cool and objective, determining the outcome. By reading Beginner’s Guide to a Head-On Collision we learn how to go in and out of the body as necessary and, in order to take in the possibility of a larger life, how to wrest from breakage release from our thin views of who we are. Here is Matthews the husband, the father, the driver, the patient, the Virgo obsessively advising, the man looking back, the man looking forward.” — Vievee Francis, author of Forest Primeval, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award

“Sebastian Matthews has incredible patience for the beginner, since he is one himself, as he confronts the severe agony of a terrible car accident. In short narratives, brief lyrics, prose poems, and mock astro-missives, Matthews reminds us how the brutal pain of collision might dramatically change us. ‘[W]hat we shared was the truth of impact— / our bodies ringing like bells in a small town / on a Holy day . . .’ These poems detail both physical and spiritual misery, and though suffering can turn us into many things, Matthews—our banged up storyteller, singer, docent—strives to deliver himself back to a body of affection, intimacy, and kindness. Beginner’s Guide to a Head-On Collision is a remarkable record of that difficult journey.” — Patrick Rosal

A yellow background and a red car with black script that reads Beginner’s Guide to a Head On Collison a memoir in poems by Sebastian Matthews.

Sebastian Matthews ( Author Website )

Publication Date: September 19, 2017

Genre/Imprint: Poetry, Red Hen Press

$15.95 Tradepaper

Shop: Red Hen, Bookshop, Barnes & Noble

ISBN: 978-1-59709-602-7