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This review is taken from PN Review 112, Volume 23 Number 2, November - December 1996.

TWIN GRINDSTONES WILLIAM MATTHEWS, Time and Money (Houghton Mifflin)

Time is money. Or so we used to think. Even if money couldn't buy happiness it was an earthly marker of God's favor. It's cashed in later and buys you time in heaven. But we no longer believe the old catechism, that time is money is grace. Instead, in William Matthews' verse time and money are twin grindstones. With any wider faith in religion, work or anything else milled away by time and money, man is ground down to the self's nub. It is inescapable:

that time wastes us, and time saves and
        buys us,
that time spends us, and time marks and
        kills us.
We live as the direct object of verbs
we hoped we could command.

In 'Self Help' Matthews asks for what we lack: 'There must be/some higher purpose to whose faint signal you could,/so to speak, tune yourself in.' But any steps we can take are small and in the end: 'God weeps for the helpless, and without a sound.'

But bottoming out, the poet recognizes and accepts his diminishment, using it for his own purposes. The autobiographical 'Generations' slyly flips an insistence on 'standing tall'; instead, 'I needed to stand short - a tiny man.' From this clear-eyed recognition could come a career, a calling, a voice:

I needed time, I thought, and money,
but I was wrong. The voice ...

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