Matt Duggan is blessed with a voice that was made to recite poetry. A wonderful West Country lilt that holds your attention and satisfies. He is also blessed with the ability to write superb poetry, stringing together words in such a way to leave you wanting more. Woodworm is a magnificent example of Matt’s poetic talent. A collection of poems that feel very modern, at times reflecting the 21stCentury angst that many of use experience in our lives; yet his style of writing also retains a degree of the traditional. As such Woodworm should appeal to all lovers of poetry.
For me this collection resonates the most because Matt is not afraid to take a swipe at conventional society and the state it finds itself in, often jabbing his finger at the ways of the capitalist world, ready to point out its many failings. And that assault on the norm starts with The Citadel, the poem that kicks starts the book. Matt reminds us of the view held by some that homelessness and being on the fringes of society are not acceptable to those who believe their way is the right way, as he describes ‘dystopian fly-traps laid out to deter the homeless’, a sight that is becoming far to common, even in my quiet neck of the woods, something that Matt emphasises with the line - ‘I look onto a world as a stranger in a very familiar and unequal land…’ It is this understated way of pointing out the obvious (things that at times have become invisible) that is one of Matt’s strengths.
There is not much of our modern world, way of life and types of thinking that doesn’t get a tough examination from Matt. He shows his dismay at the increased use of drone warfare in Questioning the space between drones, pours disdain on the world of Social Media with the increased worship of ‘algorithms and selfie sticks’, although I very much doubt that the subjects in his poem would know an algorithm if it worked out a way to slap them in the face. The transformation of Sebastian Gilmour would be much funnier if it wasn’t so scarily true, I am sure that he is not the only one to have met such a person, all too willing to abandon their principles once they have been seduced by the basic principles of capitalism.
In The plight of the working-class, Matt draws upon the history of late 20th Century Britain, illustrating the effect of Thatcher’s dog eat dog philosophy and the promise of opportunity in a Tory world. He dwells upon the mass defection from the Labour movement by the working classes, lied to by the popular tabloid press, simply put as - ‘When a worker puts down his newspaper doesn’t believe what he reads anymore’ and the destruction of workers’ rights and the undermining of the Trades Union movement - ‘… by trying to down all of his work tools. A worker is then labelled a shirker, commie…’
But Woodworm is not all an attack on capitalist politics, Matt also shows his warmer, affectionate side - When foxes come out to play and Butterfly are both as good as they are simple, both are beautiful descriptions of the natural world at its best. For me though, Tenderness is perhaps one of my favourite poems in the collection, the opening lines are majestic - ‘Drop a heart into a glass watch the glass start to expand place a lid or plate over its circular top’
The whole poem booms with warmth and beautifully lives up to its title - I wish this were a poem that I had written!
Woodworm is a collection that I heartedly recommend, written by an important poetic voice. It reminds us of the world we live in - the good and the bad - and will remind you to both get angry with things but retain your love of things that are just.
Buy it, read it, read it again and again and if you ever get the chance to hear Matt read his poems take the opportunity and listen attentively.
Darren J Beaney
Matt Duggan's unique poetic voice in his second collection speaks about humanity to our humanity. It is ironic the title for this collection is called Woodworm, as each poem subtly challenges us to move, and shift our perceptions in the way Woodworm thrives unseen in wood. If wood was a metaphor for our government, political leaders, our own attitudes, and indifference, woodworm erodes the outdated. Equally Woodworm could be regarded as metaphor for the rot which has almost consumed core principles regarding our dignity as human beings, and our spiritual soul. Each poem speaks to and for the spirit of humanity, gaps in society, and calls us to reflect on our empathy for the most vulnerable, lonely, and disenfranchised of us, who have little or no voice. 'Don't replace the same armour where open wounds are healed by breath not medicine' 'why do we help plough burnt land and city? recycling dangerous metals - rivers of sarin and yellow chlorine' 'All that's left are the berry pickers the foxes have gone - magpies have flown from the storm' Lines such as these take you through Woodworm, worming their way of contemplation into your psyche. In these times of great upheaval we need poetry to soothe, challenge, and address the truth of our innate humanity. I highly recommend reading this collection. Attracta Fahy - Psychotherapist.
An exceptional, insightful and intriguing collection, seeking the truth of modern society. Words filled with bravery that leads to a thought-provoking read alongside strong imagery. Exceptional poems with a unique tone of voice, a distinct collection that is worth the read, speaking with honesty, poetry that moves and awakes you. If you were lucky enough to come across this collection, do not miss out on it. One of the best collection of poetry I've read recently! Fran Chouinard
I have always been drawn to Matt Duggan’s superbly crafted, lyrical poetry for its political punch – and, just as it was in his first full collection, ‘Dystopia 30.10’ (which I also highly recommend), so it is in ‘Woodworm’, his new collection from Hedgehog Poetry Press, with courageously caustic poems such as ‘Orator of Peterloo’, ‘Look What We’ve Become’ and the title poem. But, as ever – with poems like ‘The Plot to Kill What Could Never Be’ and ‘The Iron Children’ – Matt Duggan proves himself to be as deft and as devastating with the personal, and this collection – for its much-needed uncompromising stance as well as including various instances of gentle introspection – is a must-read and highly recommended.
Matt Duggan's stunning collection sings directly about our world to us, never letting us be complacent. He breaks the barriers of our mindscape with rich and provocative imagery, unusual and gripping metaphors and inviting lyrical language. Love and globalisation live side by side, subtly pointing to our uniqueness and at that the same time how we destroy it. I can honestly say that his powerful poems, like woodworm frantically burrowing inside, remain in my head to this day.
Maria Castro Dominguez
Matt stands up for the underclass, the disenfranchised in this dystopian world we share. In Woodworm he observes contemporary society (or the lack of it) with a critical poetic eye - taking us with him into cafes and bars, on the street. Whether it's an angel of disparity (citadel) or the very first yuppie (sebastian gilmour) Matt has us feeling uncomfortable when we recognise the hypocrisy of it all, and how we all contribute to this and need to bear responsiblity for this modern-day crash site we call Today. Paul Dyson
Matt Duggan’s ‘Woodworm’ is the best collection of poetry I have read this year. Duggan is an exceptional writer with a unique voice who captures the uncomfortable realities and truths of life in contemporary society with compassion, humanity and wit. This is compelling read that challenges the reader to ‘Look at What We’ve Become’. If you buy only one poetry book this year, buy this one because you will want to return to it again and again. Nigel Kent
This is a ground-breaking poetry collection, skilfully penned and thought-provoking. It represents post - modernist expressionism at its best. I can personally endorse all the comments made so far and thoroughly recommend it. It should be on the bookshelf of every serious contemporary poet! Aimee - Amazon Customer
This is the poetry I needed to read.
It's free of form and vivid in language. In practically every poem I've happened across (confession, I have yet to read them all) there is this wonderful combination of words in a line that defies that which is (at least) immediate logical rigorous analysis and justification, or at least is a rather tenuous connection/link in those terms, but sounds alive. The reason I say I needed to read this, is because, personally, I've been going through a period where it is the latter type of thinking that has been dominant. And, whilst that is very useful, to have words so wonderfully exuberant bouncing off the page that can just in part exist as a bit of a mysterious jumble with a smack of sentiment that you can get without needing to unravel all of what might be obscuring vines, so to speak, is very freeing. And much needed, on my part.
'musty breath of sunset glue'; 'words from deepest salt'; 'eyes in death's royal plum';.... are a few from the first poems. Admittedly some of the poems capture me more than others, as with pretty much any other anthology, but in contrast to pretty much any other anthology, up until now, there is something surprising in the language to enjoy even if for whatever reason the poem doesn't quite yield `meaning' or drag something out of you at the time of reading.
The themes are definitely appropriate for a title 'dystopia'. And, usually, I find such things that labour or emphasise 'dystopian' topics ultimately grinding in that I generally prefer to think of things in a more balanced and where possible positive light (who really want to feel a sense of hopelessness and inevitability of humankind? Even if one can extrapolate such possibilities at times). But, at the moment, the content together with the language and the way it is portrayed, and the viewpoint is so colourful and rich that I cannot see it becoming 'grinding'. There are many poems to come, so it might change. But, we'll see: I don't think so and I hope not. Because at the moment its rather wonderful and exciting.
Of course, not everyone (possibly even very few) will be approaching reading it from this sort of standpoint -- that being one in which they might find a release in the way it is written such as it is. But, even so, I think it's worth reading. If only for the fact that it diverges from some of the 'standard' I've seen in most of the few modern poetry books I've read. Dystopia 38.10 Amazon Customer -
Something of the surreal, something of the Dadaist, a despair at the state of things and a longing too, are among the impressions I got while reading Matt Duggan's 'The Kingdom'----which, correctly or incorrectly, I take to be a kind of dislocated metaphor for the state of the UK today. The elusive, the illusory, the missing or lost, the stolen, the decaying and death, all figure large, creating a sense of reluctant melancholy----reluctant because hope still manages to move like a zephyr through the poet's words. "Secrets hidden from ghost towns / where the dead stitch elastic patches / onto the foundations of half-broken homes;" Duggan writes, and in another poem, "Soon we will become / when time quickens / a selection of dead profiles." There's not much hope there, you could argue, but I assure you it's present, a word here, a phrase there, that serve to soften the melancholy and suggest to me that Duggan knows that without hope we are lost. Highly recommended. The Kingdom J.Goddard
May Tree Press is new to me. Matt's work isn't. Which is not to say that these poems aren't new. They mark his arrival in wet Wales, despairing of political Britain and our trashing of Earth. Impressed as always by Matt's seemingly casual use of metaphor, and wondering often how his poems arrive where they so effectively do: Printed on thick paper this collection worth getting alone for the plethora of images in what has to be one of my favourite titles -'The River Flows West When The Dead Are Sleeping. The Kingdom Sam Smith - The Journal
A SEASON IN ANOTHER WORLD
REVIEW BY EMMA LEE
A collection of poems rooted in the contemporary world that ask readers to look again at the familiar and question their senses to really observe what’s going on. The title poem suggests “I found the answers to life in another world,/ yet duly forgot them when I returned” and ends, “Occasionally I’d swim to Hades, . spending a season in another world; where I saw giants on miniature stages whistling the tune to Hawaii Five-O.” There’s a restless energy and a searching beyond the ordinary. The energy is also about bringing lessons learnt back and using new knowledge to inform and reassess. Not all the poems fly off into surrealistic images, “Watching Cobwebs on Skirting Boards One Friday Night” is a study in noticing minor details, “Notice what needs to be cleansed, using blusher to hide the wedding ring bruise, never remembering the kitchen battle marks where hurt is hidden from pride, reassembling a trembling beat in the heart. Bites that tattooed the arm; hair like lipstick traces bubbling under hard skin— when morning reveals the aftermath, denial is the response from the rage she caused and brings to him every Friday night.” It captures both the shame of domestic violence where “hurt is hidden” and the shift of blame by the perpetrator onto the victim. It’s easier to blame her than figure out what’s making him angry and deal with it. Despite the recorded violence, it’s a silent poem suggesting the isolation and lack of communication both parties feel albeit for different reasons. She is fearful, ashamed and hiding bruises. He is blaming her and failing to address the cause. Suggestive details build the picture in “The Spaces Left Bare” where in an empty, luxury hotel, “Air is stale and needs recycling; windows gleam with no visible fingerprints; immaculate laminated tiles, underfloor heating; the spaces are left bare… … . . Where beneath the plush gothic balcony, a homeless man sleeps in the open air; at night, the room lights up for no one, then fades as dusk wakes the clock; where guests will never reserve or stay.” The emptiness of the room is also a comment on the values of a wealthy society that appears to tolerate homelessness. The homeless man is passive whereas in the empty room lights come on when day turns to night as if its immaculate fittings can’t tolerate darkness; a reflection of the way wealth can protect against some negative aspects of society. Among the taut, focused poems is one duff note in “No One Loves Us Like the Graveyards” where “No one loves us like the graveyards. They do not watch the stars even though they stare deep into amber sky, bumping into each other while walking the shopping aisles. Not for any religious purpose, but for the drones and the missiles webbed in skylines of this Syrian circus; no one loves us like the graveyards.” The title is used as a refrain which feels as if it’s straining for effect and the poem itself isn’t offering much that isn’t already known; it’s preaching to the converted. “Elegy for Magdalena” brings readers back to Matt Duggan’s usual focused form, “We were dancing against the tide, where no God, Man, or Papal Master could bury love in the reckoning; where bare light preaches in monstrous dark until the shallow sound of light does break. Our lips locked—electricity soared from tongue and stranded soul. I’d tasted the stolen fruit, a taste that has never left my side; on this day came her presence—like the fragments from a dream. My sanctuary: a bed of spitting wolves— a sovereign placed in dust—where a shredded wedding dress hangs like a crucified shadow on these uncertain shores.” “A Season in Another World” is a collection of crafted, contemporary poems written with an acute sense of observation and deft use of imagery and landscape to focus the reader’s attention and draw them in.