Interview with Maria Matuscak, Internationally Published Poet, on her Poem “A Ode to the Freemasons, Gathered Here Today.”
This interview is also available on YouTube.
In September 2017, Essex District Masons honoured City Hall and City Officials with a “Cornerstone Ceremony.”
As part of the Ceremony, the Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario recited a poem entitled “An Ode to the Freemasons Gathered Here Today.”
Maria Matuscak, an internationally published Windsor Poet, composed the poem. Square & Compass Promotions was honoured to have had the opportunity to ask her about the poem, which is an important contribution to Masonic Poetry and Literature (in Ontario and beyond).
“An Ode To The Freemasons, Gathered Here Today.”
Walk onward, brothers, arm-in-arm
towards the giants rising in your midst. Together you form a chain
……..which will ensure the monsters of poverty and intolerance
……..your line taught, unyielding to the false gods
…………..that feed the starving masses in your streets. For you care not
Who is the Creator,
…….God or Man: the goal is simply to strive.
For you hold, you hold tight
And dear you are stone
And one of you cannot sink if his brothers hold him tight.
Whom but God could wrench the wounded man
……from your embrace? And you march forward,
……toward an ever-receding horizon, but the point is:
……………..And you do not stop.
……………..And those who cannot march on their own accord
And the cornerstone too weighs upon your shoulders,
The one you brought with you here, today,
The one you set down as a reminder,
That one bears the weight of the whole,
That there may or may not be a final stair
…….but still you keep climbing
…….because the rain falls with equal benediction on you all.
Q: In 2017, what were your initial thoughts when I approached you regarding composing a poem for the Cornerstone Ceremony
A: I was of course flattered…and honoured. It struck me as a big deal, and I was proud that you thought I’d be able to do it justice. Of course, after processing the request, I started second-guessing myself. First, I thought, “Wait a minute here. What right do I have to compose something like this? I’m not a Mason. I have no connection to this group” — -I began to fear that the audience would be offended because it’s not my poem to write. You reassured me, of course, but I was still very nervous about it.
Q: Previous to 2017, what type of knowledge or involvement with Masonry did you have?
A: Nothing, absolutely nothing beyond conspiracy theories that are laid out in the movies and in fiction. The last time I did any research on it was for a project with the Windsor Public Library about Scottish culture. I was doing some digging into the Rosslyn Chapel legends and began reading some stuff about supposed Freemason symbols carved there, connections with the Knights Templar or Holy Grail legends. I mean, i’s fun to read about these quasi-mythic archaeological hunts. So in that sense, I knew that the Masons was an old group, which is cool.
Disregarding all the mystery and myth stuff — I knew it was an international organization of men who bonded socially — not any different from other men’s group like the Knights of Colombus, or the Bear’s Club, of the veteran’s organizations where men bond.
Really, any firsthand knowledge came from my interactions with you. I’ve been your date to some of the formal events. I’ve toured the temple and stuff. I love the history surrounding it, the mythos, the sense of community and connection and brotherhood. I’ve seen how wonderful an organization it has been for you, and it seems to be the kind of thing that makes its members to be better men. Hard to go wrong there.
Q: What type of research did you complete before composing the poem? What, if any, Masonic poems did you review? Which ones, if any, stand-out to you?
A: First thing I did was Google Masonic Poetry. Reading selections by Freemason poets helped tremendously, There are lots of pages that have collections of Masonic poetry. The pages that were the most helpful contained poems by all kinds of people-literary heavy-weights like Robert Burns and Rudyard Kipling alongside brothers who seemingly composed verses just for the fun of it. Goethe’s “The Hidden Meaning” was inspirational; it tapped into a sense of awe, a sense of being a part of something that’s bigger than the sum of all its parts; something ineffable and — well, I likened it to religious awe and devotion. Which I was able to connect with on a personal level, so that poem helped to give me a foothold into the energy and feelings I wanted to tap into to write the poem you had commissioned.
Q: The poem is absolutely beautiful-what type of ideas of thoughts did you put into the poem? DO you have any favourite lines?
A: Thank you. I don’t like to talk about my own thought process because I don’t want it to impact the reader’s interpretation. I didn’t want it to be about me at all-I wanted to out it our there, as a gift to you and your organization, and you make of it what you will. I wanted the reader to interact with the text without an authorial presence. This probably ties into my insecurity about having the authority to write on the subject of Masonry.
Q: When/how did you become interested in poetry? Where have some of your poems been published?
A: I’ve been writing since I was a child. In Grade 1, I wrote my own versions of Clifford the Big Red Dog, gave him a brother or something named Nilford who was orange. I wrote stories all through my adolescence and teenage years, and then in college I majored in creative writing. But as I got close to graduating I realized I didn’t have any novels in me-I had wanted to be a novelist. In fact, I started working in Grade 8 that I worked on continuously up through my senior year of high school, it ended up being something like five or six hundred single-spaced pages and I guess that kind of exhausted my creative juiced for the genre. I started exploring poetry in my junior/senior year of college and it opened up a whole new creative world for me. And then it was coming up to where I was going to be graduating and I was like, “Oh crap, what am I gonna do for work?” So I kind of panicked and went through the MFA/Grad School option and kind of picked poetry on a whim.
I’ve been published in a handful of journals, mostly local ones in Pittsburgh where I went to school and here in Windsor, where I was involved in the writing community for a time.
Q: Our Masonic Grand Master read the poem in front of the Windsor Mayor, numerous dignitaries, and the press. I also gifted the poem to our Mayor, the dignitaries, the Grand Master, and the Windsor Masonic Temple (where it is displayed). Any thoughts on having your poem being read to and presented to such dignitaries?
A: It was quite an honour. I’m very proud that a copy is on display in the temple. It’s a big deal and I am very grateful to you for having approached me for this task, and I just hope I was able to do it justice.
Q: You’re an amazing poet and person-your poem added so much to both the 2017 cornerstone ceremony and Masonry. You also added your voice to a long and proud tradition of Masonic poets/poetry. Any final thoughts?
A: I’d like to reiterate my previous response and add that I-it is an honour, and probably my biggest accolade in writing and I want to be humble about it and say thank you for allowing me to be a part of this tradition.