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.
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.
I just bought my first strawberries of the season. They smell so good. On the way home, in the warm car, I held them on my lap while my husband drove. The car filled up with that sweet strawberry scent.
We grow a few strawberries – little wild ones that self-seed round the garden – looking for them feels like a treasure hunt – and bigger ones that are lost to wildlife half the time. They’re all still white petalled flowers at the moment – not even tiny, hard, green fruit. The berries I bought were grown in a greenhouse in Herefordshire – small, artificial summers. Today, I don’t care. We’ll eat them with cream and a sprinkling of sugar, and we’ll know that summer is just around the corner. We’re teetering on the edge of it, ready to fall.
sunshine the dancing of bees ripening fruit
A haibun for Frank at dVerse. We’re considering summer…
I sit and drowse by candlelight. I dream that this, my little house becomes a boat on seas of night, and it’s my job to turn the prow towards the welcome harbour lights – by candlelight I sit and drowse.
Stay close to me, I’ll keep you warm; my arms about you are the key to safety from the coming storm – your arms about me, equally will hold me safe, away from harm: I’ll keep you warm, stay close to me.
By candlelight we’ll sit and dream, the stars are clear, the moon is bright, the world is shimmering and gleams, and all the dangers of the night are simply stories we have seen – we sit and dream by candlelight.
A sparrowlet for Grace at dVerse. Grace introduces us to this form, that takes this shape:
It’s quite…technical. Anyhow, head over to dVerse to see more.
It was supposed to taste of your childhood – a childhood that I didn’t know – I never knew you grazed-kneed, talking excitedly, packed onto that back bench, trapped between a brother and a sister –
but instead, made something different. You liked it. It was not your childhood, rain on the windows, warmth in the kitchen – it was something different, tastier, maybe, comforting as the day fades, as the wind rattles roudn the house –
warm cinnamon, half-melted butter oozing off the fruited slice – a new coziness. Isn’t that how marriage works? We bring our memories, make something new, cherish the old. Relish this now.
Barmbrack is an Irish tea loaf, traditionally eaten at Halloween, with charms inside it that have various symbolic meanings. My Irish husband mentions it every Halloween, and one year I decided to bake a loaf for him. If you want the recipe, it’s here: https://www.irishexaminer.com/recipes/?c-recipeid=4079
I’m not a great baker, but this is delicious. It tastes nothing like my husband’s childhood memories, but it’s become part of our repertoire.
This is for dVerse. I’m hosting tonight, and we’re writing poems about food.
Cobwebs of crystal thread and crisp flattened leaves held the path we dared that morning. Coats crammed full spurning the whip of air; boots sketching the way. Sun’s glare was too harsh to warm, but the thrill of snow could scrape winter’s stinging grasp. We were catching snowflakes as giddy children.
Julie Stevens @JumpingJules kicks us off! Day 1 of the poetry advent calendar 2021.