How I wrote the poem: Welsh poet Matthew M. C. Smith on his poem ‘Abyss’

Welcome to a brand new feature. I’m fascinated by how people write, and so I decided to ask them, starting with Matt Smith, who is sharing the background to his poem Abyss. Over to Matt:

Sarah, thank you for this opportunity to discuss a poem that will be in my second collection of poetry and prose, The Keeper of Aeons, to be published by Broken Spine Arts. I’m going to take this opportunity to discuss a poem called ‘Abyss’, which was originally published by Anti-Heroin Chic in 2021 (thanks James Diaz – poetry editor).

When I started to write ‘Abyss’, I imagined a human figure positioned in a cathedral-like structure, suspended in space. No earth below, no cloudy or blue sky around, just an open cathedral, surrounded by stars far, far away. The human figure holds a flickering flame in the draughty vault of the cathedral. They realise that any way they face is infinite and sense the tremendous speed of light bursting through the darkness of space. At the end of the poem, they ascend to the altar and unexpectedly dive through the cathedral window, plunging with the shattered glass like a dolphin.

For me, there is the implication of choosing not to stay at that central point in the darkness of that cathedral but to break out, to travel through infinity, to submit to it and to reach for freedom. This poem could suggest many things but, ultimately, this is down to reader-response. It is a poem that strives to be strange, uncanny, full of mystery.

I am interested in cosmic surrealism – playing around with cosmology in a poetic sense, with strange imaginative leaps. I have a lot of dreams and nightmares about scenarios like this and often wake up exhausted.  

In my forthcoming collection, The Keeper of Aeons, I take the reader to the Space Station to look back at Earth; also to interstellar space to convey the minuteness, yet wonder, of our own existence as human beings and as a living planet. It’s an unsettling collection full of existential, dark moments but I hope readers will also get that sense of awe – the feeling of vastness of space and time, which we can never quite grasp. There are also more prosaic, nostalgic pieces – memories of childhood and my love of Sci Fi films which show I became interested in the Universe and why I am preoccupied by this subject as a writer.

Thanks for this opportunity, Sarah – I hope that readers connect with this poem and feel its strangeness; also hope take the leap of faith and get the book. It’s wild, weird, trippy. An experience!


Light a taper, listen to a note’s
echo through the vault.

The draught will shake the flame,
at the end of a wave, silence.

Stand with black all around you
and feel anything there may be.

Anyway you turn is infinity,
as light sears the void.

At the altar, stand before a window
of celestial light.

Dive through, dolphin-dark,
plunge through shattered glass.

into abyss.

Matthew M. C. Smith is a writer from Swansea, Wales. His second collection, The Keeper of Aeons, is forthcoming with Broken Spine Arts, following Origin: 21 Poems in 2018. He is ‘Best of the Net’-nominated three times and his work can be read in Poetry Wales, iamba poet, The Lonely Crowd, Arachne Press, Barren Magazine, Icefloe Press, Atrium Poetry, The Storms and Fevers of the Mind. Matthew is the editor of Black Bough Poetry, The Silver Branch Project and MC of weekly global poetry weekly event on Twitter @TopTweetTuesday

Matthew collects signed poetry books, vintage Star Wars and gets the kids out of the house as much as possible, usually with a Rugby ball.

Twitter: @MatthewMCSmith @blackboughpoetry

Insta: smithmattpoet Also on FB.