‘… richly symbolic…’ Jonathan Edwards, winner of the Costa Book Award for poetry

Anatomy of a Whale is Matt’s first full collection and is published by The Onslaught Press. It can be bought direct here, and is also available at (which supports local bookshops), Amazon and Foyles.

Like all the best poets, Matt Barnard knows how to make poems bigger than themselves; short lyrics like ‘Please Follow the Yellow Line,’ ‘The Day Twilight Went on for Days’ and ‘Border Patrol’ manage to fill the page and the time beyond their reading, treading a nice line in Larkinesque terror. Writers like Charles Boyle and Charles Simic also come to mind in the poet’s highly original metaphors, his ability to draw symbol from the everyday. There are lyrics here on everything from cows named after Jane Fonda and Bette Davis to villanelles about intellectual property and the knotty question of dying hair in middle age. This is a poet with the highest regard for the reader, who offers us poems that lay out a welcome mat, before ushering us into the conservatory to look out at that incredible, incredible view.

Praise for Anatomy of a Whale:

A wide range of subject material and a knack for ‘telling it slant’ distinguishes this lively and perceptive collection. Here is a poet interested in the makers, of bread, of maps… He connects imaginatively with danger, moments of crisis, and with the impact of the natural and animal world across time and history, in poems about the whale, the dog, the cat, crows, cows, gannets. There’s a grounded fascination with myth here, also, making this an absorbing and thought-provoking read.’ Penelope Shuttle (poet and novelist)

From its opening poem, ‘A Lamp Shop,’ in which the speaker finds himself wondering ‘why all the bulbs are lit through the night,’ and notices ‘the town drunk hunkering down/in the doorwell opposite, his back turned to the light,’ Anatomy of a Whale is an accessible and richly symbolic collection. Like the most welcome guests, these restrained and powerful poems announce themselves forcefully, don’t outstay their welcome, and leave our rooms changed.Jonathan Edwards (winner of the Costa Book Award for Poetry)

‘This is a varied and rewarding collection. The poems are imaginative and well-crafted, alert to the vagaries of the human predicament, as well as offering often surprising perspectives on the natural world.’ Carole Satyamurti (poet and sociologist)


Poet and editor Janice Dempsey on – ‘Matt Barnard’s Anatomy of a Whale is disarmingly accessible and at times startlingly original. He explores the underside of the ordinary and aspects of the familiar that are best seen by looking sidelong…’ Read the full review here.

Poet and critic Noel Williams in Orbis 184 – ‘Matt Barnard frequently and imaginatively presents different personae in largely mythic or historical contexts: Jonah; Frieda Kahlo; an anaesthetist; a baker in Pudding Lane. Sometimes, he uses a narrator, such as the brother of Midas; sometimes, first person dramatization…’ To read the full review in Orbis, subscribe here

The Bends

The Bends, Matt’s critically aclaimed pamphlet, can be bought on Amazon.

In a pamphlet that combines influences as diverse as Alice Oswald, Mimi Khalvati and Wislawa Szymborska, Matt Barnard embraces eclectism in an exploration of the wide-ranging tones and diction in the English language. These are concentrated poems, which delve below simple reproduction in order to study experience as it is represented in poetry. Observing a dog running on the beach, aeroplane flight, and religious assumptions, Barnard uses colloquial language and direct images to turn our favourite metaphors inside out.


‘Matt Barnard’s poems in The Bends look through unlikely eyes, and with a keen awareness. Be it an eel three days forgotten in a bucket, or the ‘Fat-bellied gibbous moon’, the perspective is never frozen, never stagnant…’ Poet and critic Joe Carrick-Varty in PN Review 242

Matt Barnard is haunted, I somehow suspect, by the sea and its fathomless mysteries, for the wide-ranging, beautifully crafted poems in his pamphlet The Bends have a lingering smell of seaweed and brine about them…’ Poet and critic Malcolm Bradley in Acumen 90

‘Matt Barnard’s debut pamphlet is an excellent collection of eclectic poems that combine musicality with precise language…’ Writer and blogger Ali Thurm

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