When editor Matthew M. C. Smith has an idea he goes all out. He looks for and seeks out challenges that generates wonderful ideas, poetry & art from contributors to the Black Bough brand.
His latest baby is “Dark Confessions” a book that explores a variety of themes such as isolation, confinement, disease and corruption. This is a prelude to a second edition which will focus on themes of ‘Freedom’ and ‘Rapture’ which is brought about as a tribute to poet/singer Jim Morrison (50 years after his passing) and the idea of “Riders on the Storm” and Blondie’s “Rapture” a very interesting idea indeed.
Matthew knows many wonderful artists & poets through the communities. He’s got a wonderful poet co-editor on board with Kari Flickinger, as well as co-editors Ness Owen & Ranjabali Chaudhuri. The artistic design of the book(s) come from designer Darren Green, from Swansea. Very visually appealing and leaving you wanting to begin to tap into the human feeling, the edginess that the human brain tip-toes on. That comes from Dark Confessions.
This series is dedicated to Welsh poet Dai Fry (a Fevers of the Mind Poets of 2020 contributor as well) who had an untimely passing as the book was going into publication. Please read his work below for a sample of his work in Fevers
The contributors of writing & art in “Dark Confessions” is a who’s who of current day poets that are putting out life changing pieces everyday and should be looked at more often.
Contributors such as Matthew M. C. Smith, Elizabeth Barton, Tara Skurtu, M.S. Evans, Marian Christie, Eileen Carney Hulme, Ness Owen, Claire Loader, Jonathan Braceras, Ranjabali Chaudhuri, Steve Jensen, Devon Marsh, Kari Flickinger, Briony Collins, Jeffrey Yamaguchi, James Lilley, Adwaita Das, Daniel Blick, Kim M. Russell, Alan Parry, Dominic Weston, Sophie Livingston, Philip Berry, Mike Farren, Rich Schilling, George Sandifer Smith, Tolu Oloruntoba, Maeve McKenna, Tom Lagasse, Liz McGrath, Jo Gatford, Elinor Ann Walker, Billy Fenton, Nick Newman, Roger Hare, Elizabeth Spencer Spragins, Julie Mullen, Emry Trantham, Andy MacGregor, Daniel Fraser, Wendy Humphries, Dai Fry, Anthony Paticchio, Ankh Spice, Natalie Ann Holborow, Mark Antony Owen and i’m hoping i’m not leaving anyone out, because this is quite the list.
I’m still reading this collection which was gifted to me to read, and some of these poems I keep re-reading because the imagery has to be rested on for awhile and just mingle with your mind tingles for a bit. You can feel the emotives that are put out there, and do you dance with that emotion, do you hide from that emotion, do you cry for awhile in those emotions, do you smile from the creative wordplay?
Polish Mother Bones by M.S. Evans “Each of us has roses in our throats”
Mercy by Tara Skurtu
"You can easily be
forgotten in the unforgiving
blood of the family"
Just an example of some lines from these creative poems.
You will definitely want to check this series out from the brilliant Matthew M. C. Smith's latest endeavor in a collective poetic magnum opus.
Our footprints, the tracks of our play,
going all ways, ran deep along the shore.
All our lives we laughed along the stretch,
we laughed at simple games, splashing
through pools of silver, across sands of
burnished gold. We laughed against the sky
and you listened to young voices,
spellbound, time out of mind.
That day, the wind whipped the waves,
the swell surged, we were beaten
by torrents, caught in the rising storm,
the crash, deafening.
We floundered, soaked to the bone.
The light was cold, so very cold
and we shouted as we saw you,
separate, tides encircling,
gazing out in silence.
We saw your still, bowed head,
as if in prayer. The rip took your feet,
and you were taken, consumed,
the falling man.
We took your arms, hands,
searched in eyes of ages blue,
taking that curve of jaw, seeing your soul
as a burning ship and still your head was bowed.
As the tide slipped, you were so white, so white,
kissed by time's silent lips.
No cry, nor whisper, a cross shape near
crested roar and the people you love
carry you from the shore
For more on Matthew check the link below
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
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
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
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 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