Pipe Dreams

by Martin Matz
   An exquisite collection of 11 opium poems, privately published in an edition of 100, with 10 signed and lettered copies, Pipe Dreams is Martin Matz’s hallucinatory suite of his odyssey in Thailand in the late 1980s. With cover art by Don Martin and an introduction by herbert huncke, Pipe Dreams marks a collaboration between Matz and two friends who, like Marty, possessed outlaw sensibilities. The book also features two tipped-in photographs and a glossary by Barbara Alexander Matz, Marty’s wife. Don Martin, an artist whom Marty described in the book’s dedication as “my soul brother,” had lived and traveled with Matz in Mexico in the 1950s. Huncke, a storyteller who, like Marty, was a longtime user of opiates, was a neighbor and close friend of Matz’s in the Chelsea Hotel in the 1980s.
   In his introduction, Huncke writes, “Mr. Matz can successfully blend the strange and fascinating dream level reality with the mundane daily experience most perfectly, weaving perfect magic.” The magic commenced in 1988 when Marty and Barbara were invited to the Tenth World Congress of Poets in Bangkok, Thailand. On their third day in Bangkok, Matz was hit by a truck and broke his collarbone. He and Barbara then headed to northern Thailand and settled in Ban Muang Noi, a remote hill tribe village north of Chiang Mai.
   Finding inspiration in the undulating poppy fields that ringed his bamboo hut, Matz wrote most of Pipe Dreams during the course of several languid months during the monsoon season. In addition to savoring the ritual and effects of opium smoking, Marty and Barbara enjoyed elephant treks in the jungle and visits to the local Lahu village. The title Pipe Dreams, perhaps, has a dual meaning: It refers to the visions evoked by smoking opium out of a long stemmed pipe, but it may also refer to dreams unfulfilled. The first five poems in Pipe Dreams reflect Matz’s exuberant embrace of the poppy’s alchemical effects, while the last six poems are darker in tone, addressing themes of suffering, addiction, and mortality. In “The Writing of Pipe Dreams,” Barbara A. Matz writes, “The whole of the Pipe Dreams poems are [sic] an autobiography of Marty’s experiences during our first stay in Thailand. Pipe Dreams \#9 and \#10 were written in a hospital in Chiang Mai where Marty and I were trying to clean up our wonderfully immense drug habits.” Though a rare and elusive artifact, Pipe Dreams is a prime example of the Beat sensibility being fused with elements of surrealism and lyricism. Martin Matz, the self-proclaimed “insatiable traveler,” found a Shangri-la in northern Thailand, only to discover that one must pay a high price for an extended stay in Paradise.
■ Matz, Marty. In the Seasons of My Eye: Selected Writings 1953-2001. Edited by Romy Ashby. New York: Panther Books, 2005.
   Laki Vazakas

Encyclopedia of Beat Literature. . 2014.

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