Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Matthew Stewart and Paul Stephenson

I've not found the poetry world to be the bitchy place that it's sometimes made out to be. It's unfair to pick out just 2 generous poets - for a start poetry journal editors merit a mention - but I've chatted to both of these poets, they've both been published by HappenStance, and they've both had some recent successes.

Matthew Stewart

His blog is Rogue Strands where he often posts supportive reviews. He's published

Recently he's had 2 poems in the Spectator!

In Writing Simply he writes "Helena Nelson suggests that one reason why poets are afraid to write plainly is because they're worried the result wouldn't be a poem at all. I'd agree with her, but argue that writing simply also carries huge risks. There are no accoutrements, no verbal fireworks, no make-up to hide any flaws, and the consequence is that any mistakes become glaring". This is an abiding theme of his. Here are some other quotes -

  • Countless poets, editors and critics appear to equate ’simple’ with ’easy’ or ’facile’. However, the reverse is true, as many readers recognise.
  • Richie McCaffery speaks to us directly, with passion, with sincerity. He moves us in ways that should theoretically lie beyond the capacity of such accessible words.
  • Michael Brown’s poetry might initially seem straightforward. Certain critics might dismiss it as facile or simplistic. In reality, the opposite is true
  • Rory Waterman stands out among the poets of his generation in the U.K. not only for his awareness of form and his technical control but for how lightly he wears them. His use of language is so natural that the reader is carried along by the cadences of his lines without any need for extraneous resource or recourse.
  • There’s a poetry that doesn’t tackle difficult subjects head-on, preferring instead to seek out angles that might lend new perspectives. It’s not cowardly for doing so. In fact, its risk-taking is greater, as it doesn’t pulse out obvious messages. Instead, it prefers a far more subtle, more powerful and longer-lasting approach to its awkward themes (of Charlotte Gann)

He's also interested in metrics - syllabics, etc.

He spends much of his time in Spain where he works.

Paul Stephenson

On his blog are interviews with poets and much else besides. Interviews like the one with Richie McCaffery (yes, the same poet who caught Matthew Stewart's attention) are extensive and well researched. As well as helping fellow poets by writing about them on his blog he co-curated Poetry in Aldeburgh in 2018 and in 2019.

He's published

  • Those people - a winner in the 2014/2015 Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet competition judged by US poet Billy Collins.
  • The Days that Followed Paris - by HappenStance in October 2016 and included as one of the Poetry School’s Books of the Year 2016
  • Selfie with Waterlilies - which won the Paper Swans Press pamphlet competition and appeared in September 2017.

He's recently had poems in PN Review. He writes a wide range of poetry, from identity politics to Oulipo. One never knows what he'll come up with next.

Like Matthew Stewart his interest in Europe isn't token - he's worked in Paris, etc. Perhaps this outsider perspective is what helps fuel both of these poets, letting them observe English language and society from a distance. Both poets deserve the success that's coming their way.

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