Sunday, 28 April 2013


As an export manager in the wine trade, I often seek new outlets for my products. This entails making offers, sending out samples and awaiting a reply. More often than not, a rejection arrives back, as supply far exceeds demand. However, there's a real rush when a customer takes a new wine. Who cares about all those rejections in the face of a beaming acceptance...?!

As an poet, I often seek new outlets for my work. This entails making offers, sending out samples and awaiting a reply. More often than not, a rejection arrives back, as supply far exceeds demand. However, there's a real rush when an editor takes a new poem. Who cares about all those rejections in the face of a beaming acceptance...?!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Review: Nasty Little Intro #5, by Tristram Fane Saunders

I really enjoyed Lizzy Dening's Nasty Little Intro last year, and so I was delighted to get my hands on another mini-pamphlet from the series - this time #5 - by Tristram Fane Saunders.

Fane Saunders renders the reviewer susceptible to all sorts of cliché and hyperbole: any pamphlet by a nineteen-year-old Cambridge undergraduate tempts the use of terms such as "precocious", "exciting new talent", "one to watch", etc, etc. What's more, in this case the poetry itself very much does warrant close attention.

These are poems that simultaneously connect with the everyday yet also demand knowledge of popular and literary allusion. PG Tips appear alongside John Betjeman, The Meaning of Liff and John Cooper Clarke. As indicated by the invocation of that last name, it's also verse that lends itself to performance, especially in the case of pieces such as Silent Disco:

"come dance with me
among the moshing
tatters of mankind
the broken folk
the malcontents
the speechless and the blind..."

This might come over as slightly facile on the page, but the aural impact is clear.

Nevertheless, it would be unfair to classify Fane Saunders so readily. As the chapbook's title states, it's an "intro", and thus shows the poet exploring varying facets of his work. In other poems he shows he can turn a phrase well, judge its use within the context of a poem, and grab a reader's attention. One such example occurs in the opening lines of Farnham (which just happens to be my home town!) :

"The days are melting in together,
taking you with them. Not like broken
ice in a wineglass, with late summer
sweating its edges; more like sodden
tissues in mounds..." 

I'll be following Tristram Fane Saunders' poetic development with great interest. Will he definitively go down the performance route? Will his written poetry gain more and more texture? How will he wear the growing erudition that he's revelling in just now? The exciting thing is that he can't even know that himself!

Friday, 19 April 2013

A special offer

Over at their updated online shop, HappenStance Press are currently offering a special deal on my two pamphlets:

"In Tasting Notes, Matthew Stewart has four Zaleo products speak for themselves—a marriage of wine and poetry.

The poems in Inventing Truth are characterized by brevity and restraint. At first reading, they seem simple. They pack a punch, however, that exceeds rational expectation.

Now you can buy both pamphlets together at £6 for the two - a £2.00 reduction on the price if bought singly."

You can take HappenStance up on their excellent offer by clicking here.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Abstract nouns in American poetry

"In spite of the risks involved in broad generalisation, let me start with a premise: while much of UK poetry seems to run scared of big abstract nouns, fearful of being sucked into their black hole of mish-mashed connotations and interpretations, American poetry seems to have long overcome such hang-ups and self-limitation."

The above is the first paragraph of my review of Brad Johnson's The Dichotomy Paradox for Sphinx. You can read the whole piece here, alongside alternative views from Matt Merritt and Helen Evans.

In spite of many possible exceptions, am I right? If so, why?

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Terrific reviews for Tasting Notes!

I'm very pleased to report that Sphinx has published a terrific set of reviews for Tasting Notes. Moreover, I'm extremely grateful to Marcia Menter, Ross Kightly and Trevor McCandless for the generosity of their remarks on my pamphlet, as in the following examples:

"...the delights of this small but succulent pamphlet..."

"...All I can say is that the mouth feel of these poems is as exquisite as the wines claim to be..."

"...It is impossible for me not to love this pamphlet..."

"...I can’t resist the voice of grape waiting to be picked..."

"...I can’t begin to tell you how delighted I was..."

"...This book is lovely. Mouth-wateringly so..."

You can read the three reviews in full here. And don't forget you can still get hold of a copy yourself (and maybe even an accompanying bottle of wine) by clicking on the links to the right of this post.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

The Frogmore Papers Issue 81

I was very pleased to find a copy of The Frogmore Papers Issue 81 waiting for me on my doorstep when I arrived home yesterday. Not only does it feature a lot of excellent verse from the likes of Abegail Morley and Mike Barlow alongside two of my poems (The Play and The Leftovers), but it also includes a number of brief reviews.

One in particular took my eye: Rachel Playforth on Richie McCaffery's Spinning Plates, in which she writes...

"These poems cry out to be spoken aloud, with their sensual, playful relish in unusual words and phrases.But they are more than just tasty verbal morsels, making elegant leaps from a single image to a greater truth, and expressing deep feeling as well as sensation..."

I can only endorse her words, having savoured McCaffery's pamphlet myself last year. You can still get hold of a copy here.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Maurice Rutherford's Flip Side to Philip Larkin

Following Prowein, which was terrific both in terms of wine and poetry (Tasting Notes turned out to be a real success not just with my importers but with the other wineries who had stands nearby!), I got back to find Sphinx Review had posted my piece on Maurice Rutherford's Shoestring Press pamphlet, which is titled Flip Side to Philip Larkin.

It's an intriguing collection, as can be seen by comparing my views with those of the other two reviewers (Peter Daniels and D.A. Prince), and I purchased a copy of Rutherford's New and Selected Poems, And Saturday is Christmas, as a direct consequence of having been sent his chapbook for review. This is one of the joys of writing for Sphinx - I discover excellent poets who might otherwise have slipped under my radar.