Slammin’ Jammin’ Matthue Roth

slamminjammin

From HBO to MTV, this young Jewish poet is making a serious name for himself.

In this issue, we feature the winner of the Worst Jewish Poetry Contest sponsored by My Jewish Learning. As it turns out, one of the judges, an editor at the website, is Matthue Roth, a professional poet who has performed his poetry for HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and MTV’s Rock the Vote, and won first prize in a poetry contest judged by famous, gutsy folksinger Ani DiFranco. Below is one of Matthue’s poems that we loved.

BETTER THAN STANDING STILL

I’m through with little earthquakes,
I’m ready for a jolt the size of the world
sick of taking the train with fake messiahs,
I’m ready to be the real one;
I just can’t get hired

I’ve stopped believing people who
say they’re telling the truth
think I’m gonna stop believing people who
say anything—
if you know you’re right,
just be right.

But who am I saving? The temp job I got is
just enough to cover rent.
There’s a crazy man on the sidewalk,
chasing pigeons and yelling Madonna
songs at the top of his lungs,
and the truth is,
he’s got a better voice than I do.

I’m sick of religious hypocrites,
even if they’re probably right.
Sick of everyone just under my age
being way too ready to fight.
Sick of the people just older than me
afraid of becoming irrelevant
but most of all, I’m sick of myself
losing my passion to my intelligence.

Here’s the truth:
I want to believe people again.
I want to hug girls, boys, everyone in between,
I want everyone to be right
even if they’re not, you know … right.
I want to pass strangers by, look into your eyes
when I say hi
and be swept into your world for a moment
not because I want to make out with you
but because it’s your world

I want to get misdirect emails
that still pertain to me
and you know what else I want?
Money.
Not enough to matter, but just too much to count
enough to give the guy on the corner
enough to never have to ask again
and then give that much to
the guy on the next corner, too.
You want to know what G-d thinks of money?
Look at the people He gave it to.
But you want to know what we think of G-d?
Look who’s in charge of all the churches.

Lately, I have stopped thinking when I pray
deliver the words and let G-d sort them out.
For me, I’m trying to get myself together.
Instead of throwing stones at all my neighbors,
I’m gonna start stoning myself.

Maybe I’ll make myself a better person
maybe I’ll just get blisters.
Little earthquake,
big bang,
or being the most productive fuck-up
this side of Manhattan,
I’ll tell you this:
it’s better than standing still

About the Author

Matthue Roth
Matthue Roth is the author of three novels as well as a memoir about becoming an Orthodox Jew and a professional poet. He has filmed poetry for HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and MTV’s Rock the Vote and has performed poetry at Yale, Harvard, NYU, and several other universities. He has toured the United States three times and Australia twice. He lives with his wife and daughter in Brooklyn and keeps a secret online diary at www.matthue.com.

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