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The Morrow Plots

Publication Date: May 2013


The Morrow Plots is a series of linked, research-based poems regarding the bloody history of, and varying identities of, The Morrow Plots, an experimental cornfield in Central Illinois that, in the 1920s, was a popular dumping ground for dead bodies, and is now a National Historical Landmark.

“These are poems placed in the Midwest for which the Midwest is less region than archetype. ‘At the edge of the interstate, / crows subvert the corn,’ Frank writes. ‘Strange how in the middle / of the farms, the convenience stores / still hide under bulletproof glass.’ Indeed, these well-crafted couplets and tercets do nothing to muffle the lethal tensions that rise out of the Morrow Plots, where ‘the hardest thing the Earth asks of us, /…requires not the tractor, but remembering.”

-from a review by Diane Seuss in Mid-American Review



For over twenty years I have lived and worked near the Morrow Plots, but it was not until I read “Matt Frank’s book that I really saw them. His book is an historical and personal record of a central Illinois landmark. He, much like William Carlos Williams, in “Paterson” brings to his vision, a poetry of acute awareness and accuracy. Frank’s poems are vigorous, penetrating, and moving. He employs a microscopic and telescopic perspective that allows us to examine an external and internal landscape with photographic and linguistic precision. The Morrow Plots is an important poetic work that dramatically evidences how estranged we can be from our own attentiveness.”

-Michael David Madonick

The cornfields of Matthew Frank’s The Morrow Plots are a centering point of our errant visions, violences and desires. They are oceanic; they are like the beating hearts of horses; they are a threshold crossing beyond which tractors become warships and the human heart performs and is subject to mortal experimentation. Within the agricultural history of Illinois’s experimental cornfields Frank discovers a dark and troubling landscape and writes about it with a quietly simmering anger, tenderness and beauty. This is an original and an unforgettable book.”

-Nancy Eimers

About the Author

Matthew Gavin Frank

Matthew Gavin Frank is the author of the nonfiction books, Pot Farm and Barolo (both from the University of Nebraska Press), and Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and the Man Who First Photographed It (forthcoming from W.W. Norton: Liveright) the poetry books, The Morrow Plots, Warranty in Zulu, and Sagittarius Agitprop, and the chapbooks Four Hours to Mpumalanga and Aardvark.  Recent work appears in The New Republic, Field, Epoch, AGNI, The Iowa Review, Crazyhorse, Black Warrior Review, Seneca Review, DIAGRAM, The Normal School, Quarterly West, The Best Food Writing, The Best Travel Writing, Creative Nonfiction, Hotel Amerika, Gastronomica, and others. He was born and raised in Illinois, and currently teaches Creative Writing in the MFA Program at Northern Michigan University, where he is the Nonfiction Editor of Passages North.  This winter, he prepared his first batch of fried trout ice cream.

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