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with diesel, damp cardboard and out of date fruit.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.
Martin Figura was born in Liverpool in 1956 and works part-time at the Writers’ Centre, Norwich and as a photographer. He is a member of the poetry ensemble The Joy of 6. A spoken word version of his new collection Whistle (Arrowhead Press, 2010) is being produced by Apples and Snakes and begins touring in 2010. Nasty Little Press is publishing a pamphlet of his amusing poems in November 2010. He is Chair of the Café Writers Live Literature organisation in Norwich.
Martin Figura’s riveting sequence of poems about his childhood, his father killing his mother, and the consequences of that upon the whole family is remarkable for the story he doesn’t tell, as much as for the story he does. Exercising a humanising restraint, delicately balanced, these poems are an attempt to excise memory, to fill in some of the missing gaps, but the sense one is left with most of all is absence and loss. Moving, brave unsentimental, Whistle doesn’t blow the whistle on the family. Instead it rather heartbreakingly tries to piece together the fragments of a life, shattered by murder. Sometimes lyrical, rarely angry, often tender, Figura’s soul mate throughout is the understanding and watchful eye of the camera: ‘One day I shall hold them with white gloves,/carefully brush away the dust and look/through their shadows and fingerprints.
– Jackie Kay
Martin Figura has a strong stage presence. His subject matter is so challenging it makes the audience gasp. In spite of this, he engages the listener with warmth and humour. Pitch perfect, he knows his lines and knows how to deliver them. You will be entertained and moved in equal measure.
– Patience Agbabi
Martin’s one man show promises that quality of being at once profoundly honest and at the same time joyfully entertaining. His subject matter is dark and dramatic, a personal journey into family tragedy, against a backdrop of history and politics. But Martin’s stage-presence, his humour and his warmth makes this a shockingly enjoyable journey. His skilful blend of anecdotal story-telling and poetry help to build up powerful emotion without ever becoming manipulative and his use of still image (he’s a photographer as well as a poet) give the show a visual poetry.
– Francesca Beard
Martin Figura’s luminous reading made the audience hold their breath as he read from a new collection rich in warmth and pathos. Strongly recommended.
– Caroline Gilfillan, Poetry-next-the-Sea
My mother and I pose in Sunday best
in front of a cottage with roses
around the door. She dreams
it is our house, where white gloves
will not be smudged or snagged on a thorn
and be left with a pin-prick of blood.
I could print this photograph
so dark, there would only be
her hand on my shoulder.
In my Parents’ Bedroom
On this spring night the curtains burn
with distant fires.
The ceiling is blank sky,
the wallpaper a rose garden.
The dressing table’s arms are full
of fallen objects, its mirror dumb.
Through the wall, it causes no more than a ripple
on the surface of milk.
My toy soldiers are stilled
and I dream on, not of a pale throat,
a kitchen knife, a pyjama cord
The whole thing tips upside down
at the news. Cups and saucers
spin away – disappear
into the infinite Artex swirl.
I am in the middle of the room,
the centre of a small universe
equidistant, not just from the walls
but the floor and ceiling too.
I begin a slow shadowless rotation
through the silence, heads are planets:
the doctor’s few thin hairs
the rings of Saturn,
Uncle Alan is the ginger sun,
my sisters and I small lost moons,
Auntie Margaret’s cloud cover,
Uncle Philip’s oil fields,
Father Lightbound’s black jacket
shouldering its own Milky Way.
The rear window flickers into life as we pull away,
the uncertain image of a boy on a bicycle appears,
behind him a painted backdrop of the avenue,
its sycamore trees and pebble-dashed houses:
Piggotts’, Mitchells’, Mrs Donnelly’s with all
its confiscated footballs, her poodle yapping
at the fence. Children’s games are caught
in mid-air, at the height of their action.
Uncle Philip turns onto the busy road. The boy
pedals like mad to stay with us, but we stretch away
and leave him stranded, disappearing.
Then there is just white light
and the loose flapping sound
of a film end escaping its gate.
The boy who
bend after bend
Keep this last film
dark and tightly rolled,
hold its tongue
between your teeth;
its boiled down bones
and animal hides,
its twenty layers of celluloid.
Published in Whistle (Arrowhead Press, 2010).
Order Whistle here.
Listen to Martin reading four poems at PoetCasting.
Visit Martin’s website.
Sonnet 56 by Paul Hoover (Les Figues Press)
Clampdown by Jennifer Moxley (Flood Editions)
The Book of Frank by C A Conrad (Chax Press)
Carta Marina: A Poem in Three Parts by Ann Fisher-Wirth
Stalin in Aruba by Shelley Puhak (Black Lawrence Press)
Then, Something by Patricia Fargnoli (Tupelo Press)
The Mother/Child Papers by Alicia Suskin Ostriker
(University of Pittsburgh Press, reissue)
Fear of Moving Water by Alex Grant (Wind Publications)
A Brief History of Time by Shaindel Beers (Salt Modern Poets)
In the Voice of a Minor Saint by Sarah J. Sloat (Tilt Press)
Unexpected Weather by Abi Curtis (Salt Modern Poets)
The Clockwork Gift by Claire Crowther (Shearsman Books)
Relinquish by Meryl Pugh (Arrowhead Press)
Nothing Unrequited Here by Heather Bell (Verve Bath Press)
Dances with Vowels: New and Selected Poems
by Kevin Cadwallender (Smokestack Press)
Cover Story by Dave Coates (Forest Publications)
Poppin’ Johnny by George Wallace (Three Rooms Press)
The Hunt in the Forest by John Burnside (Jonathan Cape)
Inside a Turtle Shell by Robert Savino (Allbook Books)
Plan B by Paul Muldoon (Gallery Press)
Rain by Don Paterson (Faber & Faber)
Over by Jane Draycott (Carcanet Press)
Endpoint and other poems by John Updike (Knopf)
Furniture by Lorraine Mariner (Picador)
Weeds and Wild Flowers by Alice Oswald (with etchings
by Jessica Greenman) (Faber & Faber)
Oleander by Fiona Zerbst (Modjaji Books)
Jayne Fenton Keane
Best Australian Poems 2009, edited by Robert Adamson
Chronic by D A Powell (Graywolf Press)
Like This by Diana Pooley (Salt Modern Poets)
Poemland by Chelsey Minnis (Wave Books)