Figures bright on the ice-white moor
slope-bound to the wilderness
ink of voices
dyeing the snow
A clatter of sledges
riot of children and barking
small fingers point
to the winding wing
conducting in its shadow
over the mountain peak
its cry as cold
Concrete is crystalline
cold light of halogen
steel through night
procession of chrome
Smooth arc of moon
at the end of breath
planets bright, pure light
between rise of star-sun
and down of dusk
with all motion
Trees stand sentinel
boughs glisten black
banks of leaves
tumble to field’s edge
a ditch brook murmurs
orange blood of iron trickle
Scare of crow, sky
speck of hawk, high
on signal spire
Fields tilled, stilled
a picking bird
tapping a barren bower
bleach a long skull
and whistle wire
- Please describe your latest book, what about your book will intrigue the readers the most, What is the theme/mood?
Matthew: I published my first book ‘Origin: 21 Poems’ in 2018. This is available on Amazon and the poems focus on landscape, cultural memory, layers of time, my father (who died in 2012), family and fatherhood. I’m writing my next collection which will contain poems and poetic prose. I’m really excited about it. Most of the pieces have been published and well-received so seeing the poems in a whole, cohesive collection will be surreal and a jolt – that sense of achievement about something that has been hard to do and involved a lot of tricky decisions. There are some poems that have made people cry and I’ve been contacted by people moved or inspired. I also got a ‘Best of the net’ nomination from Icefloe Press for a group of poems and prose that will be in it so I’m intrigued as to what readers will think. I’ll also use an artist and have a secret or mystery contained within but it will be very hard to find and maybe that’s all I’ll say on it
2. What frame of mind & ideas lead to you writing your current book?
Matthew: The poems in my next collection will focus again on landscape and place, our connection and disconnection with nature, the earliest traces of humanity on the earth and nature as ‘other’ – its mightiness and inhumanity. I use personification in poetry like most poets but sometimes I feel like it is another claiming act made by humans and while we are advanced animals and part of nature, it is much greater than us. There’s been vast expanses of time before humans and there will be vast expanses after our extinction far into the future. I also write about family and fatherhood, loss and some strange imaginative journeys, including cosmic adventures. I don’t feel I write personal poetry but I read over and realise some poems are very personal
3. How old were you when you first have become serious about your writing, do you feel your work is always adapting?
Matthew: I was about 15 years old when I started to write and I wrote sporadically over 25 years amassing a lot of writing, some of it awful. I got serious at 40 as a bucket-list thing – publishing a book by the time I was 40 – and published it without any magazine publications and without knowing any poets. I did it the wrong way round but it was fun doing it with ignorant bliss and naivety and at least I had something to hawk around and promote. I’m now 42 and my work adapts as I read more and more but it still has a particular stamp, I think.
4. What authors, poets, musicians have helped shape your work, or who do you find yourself being drawn to the most?
Matthew: Before being a published poet, I loved T.S. Eliot, R.S. Thomas, Alun Lewis, Wallace Stevens, Robert Graves, Langston Hughes, e.e. cummings and Sylvia Plath, to name but a few. I also got into poetry via ‘The Doors’ and Jim Morrison. I guess Morrison got me writing even if what I was writing was rambling disconnected utterances. I won’t mention contemporary poets as there’s too many and I’ll leave so many out but the ‘Black Bough’-published poets are utterly inspirational and wide-ranging.
5. What other activities do you enjoy doing creatively, or recreationally outside of being a writer, and do you find any of these outside writing activities merge into your mind and often become parts of a poem?
Matthew: Running. I run three or four times a week and have done a lot of running challenges like 10ks, half marathons and the London marathon. Running inspires poems as I go into a more meditative, zoned-out state. I’m also a keen walker, astronomer and deep time site visitor (caves, standing stones, museums, etc) and casual researcher of prehistory. I collect vinyl and vintage Star Wars figures. All of these inspire poetry. Like a lot of people, I’m on social media too much. But I’m also a husband and dad and we do a lot as a family together.
6. Tell us a little about your process with writing. Is it more a controlled or a spontaneous/freewriting style?
Matthew: It starts with spontaneity and free-flow and slows down. I leave my poetry for weeks and come back to it with a lot more control and usually make changes, which involves re-ordering, cutting and looking for better words. And then I come back again, weeks or months later. But sometimes poems are quick and don’t get edited that much.
7. Are there any other people/environments/hometowns/vacations that has helped influence your writing?
Matthew: The people closest to me inspire me to write about them. This is always positive. I don’t wash my dirty linen in public by writing negatively about anyone I know. I always write on holiday – the change of scene is creatively invigorating. I visited Cheddar Gorge and the Mendips this year before Covid and the ancient landscape was staggering and begs to be written even more about. I’ve written in Majorca, France and Italy, usually stunning land and cityscapes. I feel like this with the Gower peninsula near me, an area of outstanding beauty and heritage. Much has been written about this area but there is always more scope for investigation and creative interpretation.
8. What is the most rewarding part of the writing process, and in turn the most frustrating part of the writing process?
Matthew: The most rewarding part is when you’ve finished work and it’s really moved on from its earliest form. When others read it and give you enthusiasm and meaningful feedback, this is also satisfying. When you hold a room in the palm of your hand at a reading because you‘ve learned the poem and performed it well. The most frustrating part is having work that just feels unfinished over a long time and wondering if it’ll ever get to a ‘finished’ state. I don’t get beaten down by rejections – just truck on.
9. How has this past year impacted you emotionally, how has it impacted you creatively if it all?
Matthew: I think it will give most people, including myself, a long-term, deep anxiety about close contact with others, particularly groups. I watch TV, old films sometimes, and instinctively feel concern about people being too close. This kind of fear doesn’t bode well for the future, does it? Creatively, I’ve had time to work on some of my writing and I don’t doubt there are themes of being trapped and contained across my recent writing
10. Please give us any promotional info for your work, social media, blogs, publishing company info, etc that you’d like to shout out.
Matthew: Matthew’s writing can be read at https://www.blackboughpoetry.com/matthew-m-c-smith Access to past free Black Bough journals and links to buy print journals are at http://www.blackboughpoetry.com
Matthew M. C. Smith is a writer from Swansea, Wales. He is ‘Best of the Net’-nominated and his work is published in Anti-Heroin Chic, Barren Magazine, The Lonely Press, Seventh Quarry, Fevers of the Mind and Bangor Literary Journal. He is the editor of Black Bough poetry. Twitter: @MatthewMCSmith @BlackBoughpoems Insta: @smithmattpoet Also on Facebook. Matthew M. C. Smith (writer)
About Black Bough Poetry:
- When did you come up with the idea of Black Bough Poetry?
Mathew: In March 2019, I’d been working on publishing my poetry for about a year and decided that I needed to learn more about contemporary styles of poetry. One way to do this would be to start a small press. I wanted to give emerging writers a platform, particularly Welsh writers and those lacking support and confidence, and when I announced a micropoetry press, there was a big reception. I also started it because I’d read so many posts on social media about rejections and thought Black Bough poetry would be another opportunity for poets. It’s also helped with making connections and getting readers for my own work. I often publish my own work in Black Bough but pretty sparingly and always ask the team to look over it and be honest.
2.Were you surprised by the amazing poets that you’ve assembled & contributed to making Black Bough quite the success in such a short amount of time?
Matthew: Definitely, I’m really surprised at how many submittters there are and the quality of writing from emerging to experienced writers. The feedback is humbling and motivates me to try new things and push the scope of the magazine. If there hadn’t been such positive vibes, I wouldn’t have done so many editions and ventured into print editions. Social media gives huge opportunities for writers and magazines and the following of Black Bough poetry across the world grows every week
3. Black Bough’s anthologies are thematic in nature, How, do you come to a conclusion of coming up with the themes?
Matthew: Some editions are open-themed but you’re right – there is often a thematic approach. I try to have some connective tissue running through the open-themed ones. I get very inspired by the thematic approach and spend a lot of time thinking of interesting themes that will inspire readers and writers. The ‘Deep Time’ editions (volume 1 and 2), which went to no. 1 and 2 in the Amazon poetry anthologies chart in the UK, were inspired by Robert Macfarlane’s award- winning ‘Underland’ (2019). The focus on deep time and the environment in Macfarlane’s epic non-fiction work really inspired writers and we have such good poetry and artwork in the two volumes. It was amazing to get Robert Macfarlane’s initial and ongoing support for the project as he’s incredibly busy. In 2021, the ‘Freedom/ Rapture’ edition will come out inspired by a mashup song by Jim Morrison and Debbie Harry (‘Rapture Riders’). The themes have to be interesting to me as well as interesting to writers.
4. What is coming up with Black Bough (in the near future)? Any hints on upcoming themes for 2021?
Matthew: Freedom/ Rapture’ will probably be two editions – online and in print. That’s a big project in itself and will probably take six months at least. Then we have ‘Christmas and Winter’ volume 2, following this year’s print volume that’s out on Amazon. I’m excited by these but they are very, very time-consuming to do. I always assemble great teams to help me. There’s also the sister-project, Silver Branch, which is made up of online monthly features of writers’ work. This was inspired by Icefloe Press and their ‘Geographies’ project. After these, I’ll be focusing on my second collection and having a break from Black Bough.
5. The artwork for these books is just as important as the poetry. Who comes up with the illustrations for the books? Is it a group effort, or one particular vision?
Matthew: I hesitate to use the word ‘intuition’ but I look around on the web for talented artists and hone in on artists who I think will match the work and will be easy to get along with. All the artists and photographers have been brilliant so far. I knew Emma Bissonnet (Christmas and winter edition) would be incredible for the Christmas and winter edition as I’d already seen and bought her commercial art for several years. I wasn’t sure how it would go with Rebecca Wainwright but after seeing her first sketch, I felt the potential for an incredible synergy between the poetry and art. Her ‘Deep Time’ art is very special to me and many people who have bought the books. Lizzie Kemball was a revelation for the Apollo 11 edition. That was very exciting as she was a mystery artist, revealed towards the end. Our very own Banksy. I’ve been very lucky so far and the other artists and photographers have been brilliant
Poetry & Interview with Matthew M C Smith & Black Bough Poetry