Tuesday, 12 September 2017

I Review A Collection

The Knives of Villalejo
Matthew Stewart
Eyewear Publishing 2017

Those of us caught in mid-life, between generations - our children to one side, our parents (alive or dead) to the other - will find much that resonates in Matthew Stewart's first full collection. 

Expressions of loss: of his father, primarily, but also of the contents of his childhood (including an elegy to the dying art of milk delivery: Milko - "by the ebbs and surges of daily pints you knew who’d grown, who’d aged, who’d upped and left") exist in tension with the fearless tug of his child's growing. Stewart explores this mid-state primarily in the ordinary incidents and objects of a daily life, albeit a life lived between West Sussex and Extremadura.  So some of the ordinary is extraordinary, as exemplified in this exquisite moment:

Home Comforts

Until you’ve lived in a country
full of kitchens full of saucepans
that slowly creak to the boil,
a kettle won’t seem to whistle
like the owner of a loose dog
calling it back, calling it home.

Whether he is disposing of his father's ("small electricals?") razor at the dump, taken back in a gasp to the moment his father's teaching him to tie a tie, or Making Paella with David, "learning how to shell langoustines, exploring their cartoon-alien faces and train-track bellies", Stewart uses what's viscerally familiar, what's most noticeable only when it's gone, or shifted, or seen through a different, younger life, to draw us in: his sparse, precise language, engendering curiosity.

Though these poems are accessible at one level, there is nothing simple here. They are to be read and savoured like a complex wine with a minimalist label - to be sipped, held in the mouth a while.

Matthew Stewart will be reading at Shrewsbury Poetry on Thursday January 4th 2018

No comments:

Post a Comment