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.