Troy Town
1. A turf labyrinth, constructed for unknown, possibly ritual, purposes
2. A state of pleasant confusion.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A reminder...

Just to mention (yet again!) that there'll be live poetry and an open mic at the launch of Issue 2 of Under The Radar magazine, at Friends Meeting House, Queen’s Road, Leicester, at 7.30pm tomorrow.

Jane Holland, editor of Horizon Review, will be reading from her latest collection, Camper Van Blues; Matt Nunn, one of UTR's editors and a very funny man, will read from his forthcoming collection, Sounds in the Grass; UTR's other driving force, Jane Commane, will read a selection of her recent work; and I'll be reading from Troy Town and one or two newer pieces. It's all free, and open mic slots are available, so turn up early to register for a place. We're not allowed alcohol in there, sadly, but there will be soft drinks and a few nibbles.

More information at

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lady Godiva & Me

Next Wednesday, December 3rd, Liam Guilar's new Nine Arches pamphlet Lady Godiva & Me is being launched with a reading at The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Jordan Well, Coventry, at 7pm.

You might already have seen some of the poems through the e-mail tasters Nine Arches have sent out - if not, you've missed out, because they've been excellent, going way beyond simply retelling the story of Coventry's most famous daughter. Instead, a whole cast of voices from the city are brought to life by Liam, who's Coventry-born, but now lives in Australia.

The support will come from yours truly - I'll be reading from Troy Town and some newer poems.

Shindig! in Leicester

There's live poetry and an open mic at the launch of Issue 2 of Under The Radar magazine, at
Friends Meeting House, Queen’s Road, Leicester, at 7.30pm on Thursday, December 11th.

Readers include:
Jane Holland – editor of Horizon Review, reading from her latest collection Camper Van Blues; Matt Nunn – Birmingham’s finest poetic export, reading from his forthcoming collection, Sounds in the Grass; Warwickshire-based poet Jane Commane reading a selection of her recent work; and yours truly, reading from Troy Town and some newer poems.

It's free, and open mic slots are available - turn up early to register for a place.

More information at

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Iota review

A quality production, this one, from Arrowhead – and rare to find a hardback book of poetry these days outside the ‘mainstream’. Matt Merritt’s work has appeared in Iota several times. He is an organised, calm poet with an assured touch. He has the ability to make a poem live and breathe – and the rarer sense of when to stop.
His day job is with Bird Watching magazine, and his poetry lends itself to the outdoors, yes with birds, but also with experiences that become almost mystical, as with Holiday, 1939, when the narrator watches a German submarine surface in a sea loch, and in an example of one of his quality ‘endings’, dive again... “it slipped beneath, below / back out into the narrows, / a legendary beast, unknown to God.”
Merritt’s 12-line High Lonesome is set against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Expecting a romantic final barrier which the old American pioneers experienced and conquered on the drop into the promised land of California, the poet’s initial reaction is disappointment. The vision is “huger and messier” than anticipated, but as with so many experiences the key is to wait for “the pine-bristled valleys, / the cobalt lakes. For coffee by the campfire…”
As one might expect, Merritt is an astute observer of nature, as in Hares In December. It’s a neatly written, imagist poem that is given a wider perspective by its conclusion: “Nothing / is moving out there / but the possibility.” I like Merritt’s work, and get the feeling there is a lot more to come from him. He is not yet 40.
Bob Mee
Iota 82

Saturday, September 13, 2008

New review

Troy Town: Matt Merritt

We tend to think of poetry as a dead artform these days. Since the sixties, our poetic heroes have mostly come from the annals of popular music. From the likes of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Lou Reed to the latest ‘genius de jour’ Alex Turner and the more dubious talents of Pete Doherty.
However, it was poets who were the original bad boy libertines, drunks, opium addicts, incestuous fornicators and devil worshippers, long before rock and roll ever existed. In fact, it would be hard to think of anyone more rock and roll than Shelley or Baudelaire, or indeed Arthur Rimbaud, whose talents and scandalous behaviour peaked in his late teens/early twenties, at which point he gave it all up and went to be a colonial trader in Africa.
Bob Dylan even allegedly changed his name from Zimmerman to Dylan in homage to the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.
In literary terms, we tend to eschew poetry in favour of the novel, for reasons of narrative, plot and character development, and more importantly, clarity of meaning.
Poetry is a fairly abstract artform, which requires the time and patience not normally commensurate with the time taken to read the actual poem. We must feel our way through a poem, often stumbling blindly at first. It requires our senses to be ruthlessly honed to its ambiguous meanings and difficult exits. Poetry perhaps stands alone among the arts, in its unique ability to convey sadness and loss, the elegiac and the memento-mori. A good poem is a long-savoured delight, and the aftertaste last deep into the night.
Troy Town is Leicestershire poet Matt Merritt’s first book of published poetry, though a previous pamphlet entitled Making The Most Of The Light was published in 2005.
Merritt mixes the ordinary with the extraordinary, the everyday with the out-of-place. The juxtaposition of the rural and the urban are held, not so much as counterpoints to one another, but more to subtly merge and illuminate one another.
The poems of Troy Town are trapped in the half-light, at the points of dusk and dawn. Merritt is able to convey the deepest of sentiments with the quietest of words. There is no hysteria or madness and these are not maudlin poems filled with self-pity. Merritt has a nose for the sublime and opaque nature of the pure moment. He captures those moments in between when life is lived. That space where time and nature, memory and loss, hang suspended and the world offers itself up to us as though for the first time – for the last time. The poems are on the cusp of a netherworld of everything being said and nothing being said, as in The morning of the funeral, when he muses “…A good day for drying / so you’ll peg out early morning / and get stuck into / a few things round the house / before you need to start for the crem…”
Merritt even courageously examines the nature of the poet himself in The Other Kind, where he states: “There are two types of poet…” The first type, “…who wonder if nostalgia / is everything it once was, remember / when and where that thought first occurred / and won’t let you forget it…”; Merritt is the other kind, “who can’t imagine the intruder who / arrives once a flood to drink their wine, / warm their bed and leave only the lightest / trace all over the notebook and laptop”
Like a wooden horse, Merritt’s poetry surreptitiously creeps into the subconscious to unleash its more difficult conclusions on the human condition.
Baudelaire stated that the flaneur was a botanist of the streets. For me, the poet Matt Merritt is a great chronicler of the undergrowth.
Ewen McDonald

The Leicestershire Magazine, Autumn 2008

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Poem of the Day

Ringing Redstarts, from Troy Town, has just been featured as Poem of the Day over at Poetry Daily. The book is available now direct from Arrowhead Press, or by e-mailing me using the link on the right. If you would like to buy a copy from me, I'll also include a free copy of my HappenStance chapbook, Making The Most Of The Light.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Latest review

Matt Merritt’s excellent pamphlet collection, Making the Most of the Light, was published in 2005 by HappenStance and it’s no surprise that he has gone on to produce a debut full collection this year, Troy Town, published by Arrowhead.

Birds flit through this collection, literally and metaphorically, as he explores the intricacy of love’s beginnings, middles and endings, the tension between desire and routine, the gift of unexpected happiness and a often latent sense of un-ease, the vitality of the present moment coupled with an awareness of not being in control of it.

The writing is very strong. There’s rarely a superfluous word or out-of-place phrase. In The Meeting Place, Matt Merritt quotes Tomas Tranströmer’s “…within us, balanced like a gyroscope, is joy,” and his poems are successful through achieving a difficult balance; what they say is never imposed on their subject matter but is sourced naturally from it. When I say “naturally”, I mean the poems give that impression even as they take you a little beyond what you thought you always knew.

The Meeting Place is a good example of Matt Merritt’s strengths. It begins, “Nothing leads up to it.” Nothing remarkable is going on. “Traffic lights maintain their sequence.” The world continues as it always has. And yet:

…she is there
at the junction of all things, and at once

the better part of you is persuaded
out of balance. Moments fray to a fine thread.
The past is startled into a sudden eloquence.
Nothing need follow.

That “persuaded/ out of balance” is indeed in perfect balance with Transtromer’s line – its contradiction and fulfilment at the same time. The joy of the balance couldn’t come unless out of balance. The final line is also brilliantly double-edged because, of course, the high point of meeting can’t promise anything other than a longing for something to follow, but isolating the moment gives a different, tension-filled perspective. That kind of complexity written with compressed (and seemingly effortless) precision makes this collection one not to miss out on reading. Other pieces that also achieve this to particular effect include Winter Saturday, Attenborough and Poem, which maintains its tension and keeps the reader guessing right up to (and, to some extent, beyond) the final line.

Knots is a bird poem, but a metaphorical one, beginning with the enticing “Only now does it occur to me/ as something unseen, maybe a dog in the dunes/ beyond (although in the poem it will be a peregrine,/ probably).” The poem works through the well observed descriptions of the knots and the transformative vitality of its metaphors. The knots (wading birds) begin as spirals of smoke;

first black as a cloud of summer gnats, now silvered
as the foil they used to fool radar

and then stand “Calidris canutus” (their real scientific name)

king’s men all, commanding the waves to turn back
or else making a point completely lost on history.

The grand claim of the first of those lines, tempered humorously by the second, is characteristic of Matt Merritt’s writing. He refuses to reach beyond the capability of his images, but he isn’t afraid to extend their possibilities, revealing those possibilities as inherent all along. The poem closes:

And they’re airborne again,
only now they’re more
.................................... a shimmering shoal of sand eels,
dissipated in a second, disappearing momentarily,
a stubborn collective thought of explosive energy.

There were a few ‘passengers’ in the collection, but not many, and even those poems weren’t bad, just not as good. On two or three occasions, I noticed the presence of colloquialisms, as if from an anxiety to fit the lyricism into spoken speech patterns. In First Draft, “You’ll go to the window, your eye caught by a seagull, say” and in Loons, “you catch them/ in the corner of an eye, perhaps.” Both of these are good poems, but the “say” and “perhaps” broke the spell and invited comparisons to certain popular poets from the north of England. But these are small complaints.

It’s hard to get attention for individual poetry collections if you’re not on a major press (and sometimes even if you are). But I wouldn’t want to think that a collection like this one would go un-noticed. It’s much too good for that.

Rob Mackenzie, Surroundings

Troy Town is available on hardback from Arrowhead Press for £8.99 (post free in UK).

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

First review

If you’re asking me, and I'd understand entirely if you preferred not to, poetry is a bit like lemon meringue - I'm aware of it, I know my missus likes it, but, given the choice, I'm always happy to give it a miss.

My life is largely untroubled by poetry. And then I read something like Troy Town - a collection of poems by former Mercury journalist Matt Merritt - and I think that maybe, not for the first time, I've got it all wrong.

I read this collection of Merritt's poems during the Easter holidays, coming back to them time after time between bouts of unpleasant DIY and finding, on each occasion, something new in his unpretentious but elegant work.

Sometimes it was something about the poem, occasionally something about its author, every now and again, something about me.

Merritt's poems are warm and wise, sad but true, insightful and eloquent and unfailingly original, even when he's dealing with the minutiae of routine, everyday life.

There are, it has to be said, a lot of poems about birds - a point he admits himself during the cleverly titled Another Bloody Poem About Birds - but there is much to enjoy here and Merritt, winner of the 2004 Plough Poetry Prize and runner-up in the BBC's Wildlife Poet of the Year, should start clearing a bigger space on his mantlepiece. He's good.

Lee Marlow, Leicester Mercury

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Troy Town, published in hardback (80pp, £8.99) by Arrowhead Press on March 1st, 2008, is the first full poetry collection by Matt Merritt.

You can buy the book, or my chapbook, Making The Most Of The Light (HappenStance Press, 2005, 32pp, £3), at this site or at my larger and more general blog, Polyolbion, which also contains links to a wide variety of websites and blogs connected to poetry, other literature, birdwatching, and a host of other subjects. This blog will be reserved purely for reviews and other news concerned with my publications.

If you'd like to buy the book directly from me, it's £8.99, including postage and packing. Round it up to £10, and I'll also send you a copy of Making The Most Of The Light (there's no overlap between the two) - it would normally cost £3 on its own. Email me here for further details.

Finally, here's one of the pictures that Tom Bailey, who works as a photographer for Bird Watching, Country Walking, Trail and various other magazines, took of Wing Maze, in Rutland, for the cover of Troy Town. I'll post a few more over the next few weeks.