Matt Merritt was born in Leicester in 1969. He studied history at Newcastle University, and has worked as a newspaper and magazine journalist in Cardiff, Leicester and Peterborough. He currently works for Bird Watching magazine, and lives near Leicester. His chapbook, Making The Most Of The Light, was published by HappenStance Press in October 2005, and a new collection, Hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica, is forthcoming from Nine Arches Press in November 2010.
Troy Town (Arrowhead Press, 2008)
“The past is startled into a sudden eloquence”.
Matt Merritt’s poems are startling. Their voice is quiet, their rhymes discreet, but a loch reveals a submarine; a sky, a sudden bird; a landscape, love. This book’s familiars are birds, about which Matt Merritt writes beautifully. The poems are also brushed by the wings of loss, lit by jokes, eloquent with hope.
Sudden rain now.
Liquid miles, but hours yet to harden into day.
The way it always is.
This work is memorable for the best reasons. Without hectoring, it reminds us of what we know. Irresistibly, it opens new horizons. The reader does not want a poem to end, but when it must, the reward is insight, the exact observation which is love.
“Troy Town is humorous, wise, and clear-eyed. These are poems for grown-ups, to which a reader will return, with pleasure and surprise, again and again.”
– Alison Brackenbury
Window open to the smell of rajma makhai,
wet leaves, the smoke of suburban bonfires,
the roar that rises and fades like a through train
from the black hole of the stadium a mile away.
Spires, cranes, constellations and all light are swallowed
to be spat out God knows where, and the link road
from the motorway is a strand of spaghetti
sucked in slowly. Once you defied gravity
with velocity unthinkable now, broke that orbit
but stopped to toast your own escape.
At this distance, dragged back from the limit
you’re thinking, too much, too soon. No one’s safe.
The Meeting Place
“…within us, balanced like a gyroscope, is joy.”
Nothing leads up to it.
No sudden voltage, a whiff of ionized ozone mingling
with diesel, damp cardboard and out of date fruit.
Traffic lights maintain their sequence,
diaries continue to get written
in lamplit bedrooms glimpsed from near-empty
top decks. Timetables are still met. But she is there
at the junction of all things, and at once
the better part of you is persuaded
out of balance. Moments fray to a fine thread.
The past is startled into a sudden eloquence.
Nothing need follow.
Only now does it occur to me
as something unseen, maybe a dog in the dunes
beyond (although in the poem it will be a peregrine,
probably) unravels a tangle of them near the outflow.
There is one sharp salvo of low-pitched cries –
knut, knut, knut –
then they spiral like smoke to heaven,
first black as a cloud of summer gnats, now silvered
as the foil they used to fool radar,
to collect themselves again
in the tranquility of the sandbar.
king’s men all, commanding the waves to turn back
or else making a point completely lost on history
(though the great Dane’s fondness for them
was purely culinary). Their beaks pushed
into wet mud create a pressure wave,
reflected back and detected by a sensitive layer
at the end of the bill, so any objects larger
than a grain of salt show up like a submarine on sonar.
And they’re airborne again,
only now it occurs to me
that they’re more a shimmering shoal of sand eels,
dissipated in a second, disappearing momentarily,
a stubborn collective thought of explosive energy.
Never too late to learn to trust the path
like rustics running the shepherd’s race
at May Eve. To put aside all thoughts
of dead ends, blind alleys, mental maps.
To put aside all thoughts.
Yet here we are
on hands and knees again, penitent,
bent on special pleading to whatever
it is lies at the centre, certain only
there’s but one place this is heading.
from Troy Town (Arrowhead Press, 2008)
Order Troy Town.
Visit Matt’s blog, Polyolbion.
Read three poems published in Horizon Review.
Read a poem published in Ink Sweat & Tears.
Listen to Matt reading four poems at PoetCasting.