Pigeon Carousel
Flight of the Diamond Smugglers

A lyrical, propulsive investigation into the curious role that carrier pigeons play in South African diamond smuggling. In 2016, Matthew Gavin Frank traveled along South Africa’s notorious Diamond Coast to report on the illicit trade that supplies a global market. Immediately, he became intrigued by the ingenious methods used in facilitating this trade – particularly, the illegal act of sneaking carrier pigeons onto mine property, affixing diamonds to their feet, and sending them into the air.

 

Books

FLIGHT OF THE DIAMOND SMUGGLERS

A lyrical, propulsive investigation into the curious role that carrier pigeons play in South African diamond smuggling. In 2016, Matthew Gavin Frank traveled along South Africa’s notorious Diamond Coast to report on the illicit trade that supplies a global market. Immediately, he became intrigued by the ingenious methods used in facilitating this trade – particularly, the illegal act of sneaking carrier pigeons onto mine property, affixing diamonds to their feet, and sending them into the air. From the pits of Alexander Bay and Port Nolloth, through the Halfway Desert to Kleinzee’s shipwrecked shores, Frank investigates a long overlooked true-crime story dating back to the founding of the De Beers Corporation. Weaving interviews with local diamond divers (whose average lifespan is 37) who raise pigeons in secret with harrowing anecdotes from former heads of security, environmental mangers, and vigilante pigeon hunters, Frank reveals how these feathered bandits became outlaws in every mining town. Appealing to fans of The Feather Thief, Flight of the Diamond Smugglers becomes an urgent portrait of labor and greed.

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Barnes & Noble | Bookshop

THE MAD FEAST

Following his critically acclaimed Preparing the Ghost, renowned essayist Matthew Gavin Frank takes on America’s food. In a surprising style reminiscent of Maggie Nelson or Mark Doty, Frank examines a quintessential dish in each state, interweaving the culinary with personal and cultural associations of each region. From key lime pie (Florida) to elk stew (Montana), The Mad Feast commemorates the unexpected origins of the familiar. Brazenly dissecting the myriad intersections between history and food, Frank, in this gorgeously designed volume, considers politics, sexuality, violence, grief, and pleasure: the cool, creamy whoopie pie evokes toughness in the face of New England winters, while the stewlike perloo serves up an exploration of food and race in the South. Tracing an unpredictable map of our collective appetites, The Mad Feast presents a beguiling flavor profile of the American spirit.

PREPARING THE GHOST

In 1874, Moses Harvey—eccentric Newfoundland reverend and amateur naturalist—was the first person to photograph the near-mythic giant squid, draping it over his shower curtain rod to display its magnitude. In Preparing the Ghost, what begins as Harvey’s story becomes spectacularly “slippery and many-armed” (NewYorker.com) as Matthew Gavin Frank winds his narrative tentacles around history, creative nonfiction, science, memoir, and meditations about the interrelated nature of them all. In his full-hearted, lyrical style, Frank weaves in playful forays about his trip to Harvey’s Newfoundland home, his own childhood and family history, and a catalog of peculiar facts that recall Melville ’s story of obsession with another deep-sea dwelling leviathan. “Totally original and haunting” (Flavorwire), Preparing the Ghost is a delightfully unpredictable inquiry into the big, beautiful human impulse to obsess.

POT FARM

Pot Farm details the strange, sublime, and sometimes dangerous goings-on at Weckman Farm, a place with hidden politics and social hierarchies, populated by recovering drug addicts, alternative healers, pseudo-hippie kids, and medical marijuana users looking to give back. Frank explores the various roles that allow this industry to work—from field pickers to tractor drivers, cooks to yoga instructors, managers to snipers, illegal immigrants to legal revisionists, and the delivery crew to the hospice workers on the other end.

 

Through firsthand observations and experiences (some influenced by the farm’s cash crop), interviews, and research, Pot Farm exposes a thriving but unsung faction of contemporary American culture.

BAROLO

At once an intimate travelogue and a memoir of a culinary education, the book details the adventures of a not-so-innocent abroad in Barolo, a region known for its food and wine (also called Barolo). Upon arrival, Frank began picking wine grapes for famed vintner Luciano Sandrone. He tells how, between lessons in the art of the grape harvest, he discovered, explored, and savored the gustatory riches of Piemontese Italy. Along the way we meet the region’s families and the many eccentric vintners, butchers, bakers, and restaurateurs who call Barolo home. Rich with details of real Italian small-town life, local foodstuffs, strange markets, and a circuslike atmosphere, Frank’s story also offers a wealth of historical and culinary information, moments of flamboyance, and musings on foreign travel (and its many alien seductions), all filtered through food and wine.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Poetry

THE MORROW PLOTS

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.

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WARRANTY IN ZULU

In Matthew Frank’s brilliant collection of new poems, it seems all the patents on reality are evaporating beyond a mere novelty of image or music into another idea about things that are original and memorable—it’s like H.D. is here insisting, finally, that knowledge has soured, happily, into wisdom.

—Norman Dubie

 

Matthew Frank’s Warranty in Zulu is a work of wit and poignancy. His poems have the feel of fable in the best sense, often crossing over from this world into the surreal or mythic without losing sight of the moment. His language is rich and engaging. His roast lamb is delicious.

 

—Beckian Fritz Goldberg

SAGITTARIUS AGITPROP

Sagittarius Agitprop makes of the heart and family history the stuff of mythology and "agitated propaganda" filtered through a voice that is at once angry and tender, hilarious and asshole-ish. Like the left-wing “agitprop theatre” of 1920s and 30s Europe, these poems often intend to provoke via unfairness, smoke and mirrors, a desire for stepped-on love, and veiled jokes  The poems within involve eunuchs and Stravinsky, fishermen and Picasso, infant daughters who speak with whales, dying fathers who fetishize coffee mugs with moose on them. Also involved, as equalizers of sorts, are a vulgar Prometheus, Marilyn Monroe, an astronomer rabbi, a bag of almonds, a dead grandfather reincarnated as a sheep, an aardvark with issues of body image, and a mythical zebra. Each, as the title indicates, gets its trial by heart, by fire, by cosmos, and by picket line.

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