Poetry & Interview with Matthew M C Smith & Black Bough Poetry

Beacons

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
It vanishes
over the mountain peak
its cry as cold
as frost-stone


Frost

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
encircling Polaris

Field X

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
brook, river
mast, transmitter
red pulse
on signal spire
Fields tilled, stilled
a picking bird
tapping a barren bower
tear-salt winds
bleach a long skull
and whistle wire

  1. 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:

  1. 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



New book alert: Taking Pictures in the Dark by David L O’Nan

I have a new book of poetry & short stories out on paperback & kindle. It is actually older poetry & short stories. I have 2 other books coming out soon which are older books i’m putting back out on the market with some slight adjustments. Here is the link for my new book. https://amzn.to/2Zp2fSH

Don’t forget to check out my past books: New Disease Streets and The Cartoon Diaries as well as any of the Anthologies we’ve put together at Fevers of the Mind Press.

*Fevers of the Mind Poetry & Art Digest vol 1 June 2019

*Fevers of the Mind Poetry Digest vol 2 In Memoriam August 2019

*Fevers of the Mind Poetry Digest vol 3 The Darkness & the Light November 2019

*Avalanches in Poetry : Writings & Art Inspired by Leonard Cohen

*Fevers of the Mind Press Presents the Poets of 2020 (January 2021)

An Essay “We the People” by Troy Jackson (from Fevers of the Mind Press Presents the Poets of 2020)

 “We the People” is the opening phrase of the Constitution of the United States of America. “We the People” was chosen by the ‘Founding Fathers’ of the nation as the opening phrase of the Constitution because it would serve as a reminder to lawmakers and citizens alike that the power and responsibilities of the newly founded nation resided in “We the People”. The phrase “We the People” signified that the voting rights of the people would serve as the paramount political act in this newly formed land of various states, laws, and peoples.

Not included in “We the People” at the founding of the nation were women, native Indians, and slaves. Slaves who had been brought into the land as early as 1609 had no rights. Slaves who were the ancestors of a people we today collectively call African-Americans. My family and I are the descendants of those slaves. Slaves were granted no voting rights and considered only 2/3 of persons in the official census of the time.

On the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation “We the People” gathered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to culminate ‘The March on Washington’.  The ‘March on Washington’ attracted over an estimated 250,000 Americans.  The march was organized by A. Philip Randolph, Walter Reuther, and other notable American citizens.

‘The March on Washington’ was organized to advocate for the economic and civil rights of African-Americans and to call for an end to police brutality.  Scheduled speakers included John ‘Good Trouble’ Lewis, Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph, and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Performers included Mahalia Jackson, Marian Anderson, Joan Baez, and the now famous Bob Dylan.

Notable voices that day included Roy Wilkins who announced that W.E.B. Du Bios had passed the previous evening. Speaking of Du Bois, Wilkins said ” Regardless of the fact in his later years Dr. Du Bois chose another path, it seems incontrovertible that at the dawning of the twentieth century his was the voice that was calling you to gather here today in this cause. If you want to read something that applies to 1963 go back and get a volume of ‘The Souls of Black Folk’ by Du Bois, published in 1903.”

Also speaking that day was the late John ‘Good Trouble’ Lewis. Who would later go on to become the long-term congressman for Georgia’s 5th congressional district. John Lewis told protesters ” My friends let us not forget that we are involved in a serious social revolution.”

Walter Reuther made a call to the conscious of the nation that day when he stated, “American democracy is on trial in the eyes of the world…We cannot successfully preach democracy in the world unless we first practice it at home.” He went on to say, ” We must take adequate steps to bridge the moral gap between American democracy’s noble promises and its ugly practices in the field of civil rights.”

 Last to speak at the ‘March on Washington’ was the honorable Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who was to deliver the keynote address. In his now iconic ‘ I have a Dream’ speech Dr. King urged America to become a nation where in which “my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

 “We the People” spoke at ‘The March on Washington’ to forge a more perfect union, to demand economic and civil rights for all its citizens, and to end racism.  The people that day also called for an end to the police brutality that many protesters faced in the pursuit of the same democratic ideals inherent in the Constitution of these United States of America. 

The ‘March on Washington’ is highly regarded as the catalyst for the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965. I think that many scholars of democracy overlook the deleterious effects of the immigration policies of the era.  American democracy as we know it today owes much of its potency to the tireless work of Senator Philip A. Hart who was called the “conscious of the Senate”. 

Fifty-seven years later, “We the People” are here again in Washington at the Lincoln Memorial protesting racial profiling, police brutality, and systematic racism. The ‘March on Washington 2020’ was themed ‘Get your knee of our necks’ and was a call to the nation and lawmakers to end police brutality and systematic racism. This march was spearheaded by the Black Lives Matter Movement which had galvanized after the murder of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The ‘George Floyd’ protests as they are now known were held in big cities and small towns nationally and globally. It is estimated that as many as 25 million people have participated in these protests worldwide. Which has led to the forceful removal of monuments that many see as racist. The state of Mississippi a historical bastion of “White Supremacy” was even pressured to change its flag due to its symbolism of the Confederacy. “We the People” are speaking again… Washington please listen. 

  These protests have occurred during a global pandemic which has halted life as we know it. The Covid19 crisis has infected over 26 million people worldwide and killed over 850,000 according to the World Health Organization (WHO). While, here in the United States Covid19 has infected over 6 million people and killed over 190,000 people. It has also left as many as 50 million people jobless and with little or no health coverage. Many of whom voted against affordable health care just a mere four years ago.  Living during a global pandemic and facing systematic and structural racism is another barrier to the pursuit of happiness for many of today’s black and marginalized communities. Many of today’s voters are saying ” enough is enough” and it’s time for Medicare for all. Drastic times call for drastic measures the voices seem to echo.

Covid19 has caused the closing of schools, businesses, and government offices. The cancellation of many sporting events, entertainment venues, and live shows for musicians and performers. The NBA, MLB, CFA have all been impacted by Covid19. I’ve even had to suspend my attendance at my beloved University of Memphis Football games. Many people now see how vulnerable ‘Our Democracy’ really is to the winds of change, the climate crisis and other realities of life in the 21st century. America… young voices matter! America… black voices matter!

 Qualified Immunity and the Blue Code of Silence are widely regarded as obstacles to the end of police brutality here in the United States. Qualified Immunity makes it almost impossible for police to be held accountable for their actions. The rate of black deaths at the hands of police is three times that of white citizens. No wonder the popularity of organizations like Black Lives Matter.

Among Democratic voters 90 percent see police brutality as a “serious problem”. On the other hand, only 14 percent of Republican voters see police brutality as a ” serious problem”, as reported by a Gallop poll. Only 30 percent of African- Americans trust the police. With all these killings caught on video who can blame them? No amount of money can bring a love one back, even if anyone is ever held accountable. “Why turn your body cameras off” many people are saying?  Why aren’t they being convicted? Systematic racism is the most logical conclusion.


 ‘The Ending Qualified Immunity Act’ is a Police Reform bill proposed by Congressman Justin Amash of the the Libertarian Party that seeks to abolish Qualified Immunity for police personnel. Rep. Amash has so eloquently stated that ” The brutal killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police is merely the latest in a long line of egregious incidents of police misconduct. This pattern continues because police are legally, politically, and culturally insulated from the consequences for violating the rights of the people they have been sworn to serve. That must change so that these incidents of brutality must stop happening.”

  “We the People” must vote to end police brutality! George Floyds death must not be in vain! Tamir Rice’s death must not be in vain!  Breonna Taylor’s death must not be in vain! The death of untold numbers of victims of police brutality must not be in vain!!! In this November’s election the choice is clear. It’s time for “We the People” to be heard!!!  

This work was inspired by the dedication and sacrifice of United States lawmakers John ’Good Trouble’ Lewis, and Philip ‘conscious of the Senate’ Hart.

Troy Jackson is a literacy advocate and writer based in Memphis. You can support him by purchasing a copy of his current work. Life: A book of Poems available on Amazon. 

https://www.amazon.com/Life-Book-Poems-Troy-Jackson-ebook/dp/B07Q1X

Feature image is from Unseen Histories on Unsplash.com

Re-post:Poetry by Neel Trivedi from Fevers of the Mind Press Anthologies

Why the Hate?

I ask a stranger how s/he was born?

From a mother’s womb they say.

Just like I once was.

So why the hate?

I ask a baby what religion is.

To the best of my ability to decipher baby talk,

s/he appears not to know.

Just like when I was a baby,

blissfully unaware of grown-up talk.

So why the hate?

I ask a stranger how s/he communicates?

With a tongue just like mine, they say.

The birthplace of every language, I think.

So why the hate?

I once spilled paint on my arm.

A palette of various colors made habitats on my skin

before leaving during my next shower.

Yet my heart, personality & identity

remained the same throughout.

So why the hate?

I try to form a collective hypothesis of my conversations:

We’re all born the same way & die someday.

Skin color & religion prove to be highly incompetent

to help a heartbeat, lungs breathe & brain cells grow.

So why the hate?

Beauty: A New Definition

For generations the wise ones have said

That beauty is in the eye of the beholder

But time passes, generations evolve

Some simple, some a lot bolder

Some proverbs die

Some new are born

Left to all to choose

Which are progress, which are scorn

Perhaps a similar time has come

To give beauty a new definition

Leaving the beholder out & say

beauty is in the heart of the pious one!

Beyond the Obvious

How the naive think

What abuse means

Perhaps some blue bruises

And a shattered spleen

Such evidence & signs

Are no doubt a fear

But is there no value

Of an isolated tear?

Everyone sees the obvious

Without a look inside

Curse this bloody flesh that makes

The wounded heart hide!

The Invisible Aura

Step into the vortex of my soul

To decode the language

I often speak to myself

Every night when I peel off my mirage

That the sea of gazes around me

surmises to be nonchalance

This is my universe where:

Depression is not a mere mood swing

It’s an actual chemical imbalance

My facial expressions are not always

Gateways to the feelings of my heart

Sometimes they are merely decor

My silence is not a symbol

Of any kind of equanimity

Listen to the aura who’s decibels

Don’t roar like a lion

But squeal like a mouse

Observe the aura that’s the

shy one in the corner

Acknowledge the unfelt emotions

For you may not feel them

But just a moment of your cognizance

Could determine their fate for eons

Soul Whisperer

I come with no ostentation

No glory or cavalcade

For I creep upon this junction

Not to arouse a racket

But to dismember the status quo

I make no proclamations to be

Your knight in shining armor

Or to dry your tears

But to bequeath equity of them

To feast on the salt with thee

I come not to sheath your malformations

But to stand in their gallery

And be a zealot for ages

Of what my heart senses to be

Not wounds but victors of endurance

Think not of me as a paladin

In a quaint fable

But a commoner just to proclaim :

I once bore what you did

 

And hearken the language of your soul

That others have stained as an enigma!

 

The Midas Scratch

 

Lay your fingers on the canvas of my flesh

And scratch till what you carve

Becomes the cynosure attire of my body

Never to be removed

Till the mind in its entirety

Is severed from the bones

Take no heed of any provisional brood

Or waterfalls of blood

For the blemishes will eventually mitigate

But the fable your fingers nurture with love

Will give me an immortal prevalence

To any and all around me!

Playing Along 

After Leonard Cohen’s “Waiting for the Miracle”

When the heart drowns in total despair

I soothe it by telling tall tales

Of an intoxication known as hope

A miracle is coming, says the heart

The mind just plays along

I dance in the name off faith

Even when my feet are numb

Lest I reveal the inner abyss

A miracle is coming, says the soul

The body just plays along

Stay in the slaughterhouse

So, my wounds can blend in

Lie in the rain so tears seem small

A miracle is coming, say the tears

The eyes just play along

So far not a sign

Not even a mere shadow

Or the calm before the storm

A miracle is coming, I say

The miracle just plays along

Neel photo(c) Neel Trivedi

Neel Trivedi is a freelance journalist & in the advertising business in Dallas, TX. He writes poetry & fiction. His work has been featured in Rhythm & Bones Magazine, Drabblez Magazine, Paragraph Planet, Dodging The Rain, Mojave Heart Review, Elephants Never, Chronos Anthology, Rising From The Ashes Anthology and Purpose Magazine. As well as Dailywisdomwords.com  He can be reached on Twitter @Neelt2001