Back in the early days of my interest in poetry I was asked: had I read Matt Simpson's work. No, I hadn't. "You should, I think you'd like it". So, I did - and I did. A letter of appreciation to Matt led to our becoming firm friends. Sadly, Matt died in June 2009, but the memory and strength of our friendship live on. In a pamphlet collection titled Dead Baiting published by 4 Eyes Press, Matt had expressed his own definition of friendship whilst recording an angling friend's practical declaration of it. In paying homage to Matt, fine poet and much-missed friend, I have chosen one of a sequence of elegies Matt wrote in memory of his fishing partner who had died in 1982.
His First Barbel
Over drenched fields spooked with shapes
snorted by cows; over gates and styles melting
in dew; rodbags snatching at bramble,
waders skidding on blood-red clay: that day
we fished frustratedly, dawn to blue-green dusk,
until he found the spot to cast in - legering worm
on gravel; and then his rod-end tugged, his line
became a singing violin, a fish kicked surface;
saw him lift, kiss it, sober as a man marrying;
into waters that were chuckling, ease it back.
And again, again - finding a shoal, six more
bronze and whiskered barbel crashing water
to his net; called me, set me down, showed me where
and how to send my lead, my spiked knot of worm,
wanting to share, wanting the joy of it for me.
In his lifetime Matt befriended, encouraged, and in his day job tutored many aspiring young poets, and I'm sure he would have applauded the following poem by Gavin Ewart, and his Liverpudlian sense of humour would have embraced the cheeky idea of a fictitious Mancunian poet arriving to step unto his vacated place:
A New Poet Arrives
A new man flies in from Manchester.
Death to the Public Schools,
Ready to piss in the eye of the Old Universities.
A big woolly striped scarf around his neck,
The hunched antagonism of a left wing student.
How right he is!
Through immense spectacles he sees clearly
That only a New Movement can save our souls.
Wordsworth's great break was pecking at that apple.
The tree of knowledge,
Dividing line between the past and future.
Take off those vestments, and those vested interests.
Show as a naked soul. You must admit
He's onto something.
Change, in the Arts, is nearly always good.
Poems posted Saturday 10th September.