The Bends

The Bends, published by Eyewear, can be bought for £6 (including p&p) by contacting Matt via the form below or on Amazon. Praise for The Bends:

‘A wonderful pamphlet… Here is a writer steeped in the canon, channeling their influences to create excellent poems.’ Jonathan Edwards (winner of the Costa Book Award for Poetry)

‘These are fine, thoughtful and imaginative poems, written in sinuous and exact language that expresses what is often the strangeness underlying ordinary life.’ Carole Satyamurti (poet and sociologist)

Reviews of The Bends:

Writer and blogger Ali Thurm – ‘Matt Barnard’s debut pamphlet is an excellent collection of eclectic and wide-ranging poems that combine musicality with precise language…’ Read the full review here .



Dark river of itself, curled in the bottom of the creel
the small myth was an absence, a light taker,
pulsing with malevolence, its oily body slick
with power and potential, head, tail, middle
a single unremitting story told to the end.

None would put his hand in, tempt the malicious eye
or risk springing the trap of its jaws. Even its name,
the mysterious double e, defied us, bled sound.
Neither fish nor animal, we knew elvers would cross
fields and roads to reach the sea. Could he be a god?

Three days they forgot about him in the bucket.
He baked in the sun, skin drying brown,
contemplating the distant blue of the sky,
until one took pity and brought him down to the sea
uncurled his body and with tender fingers

sluiced the water through his gills.
How it must have felt, the prisoner released
into the light, Houdini cheating the burning rope –
the thin triumphant smile, the vengeful gleam,
before he disappeared into the blackness of himself.

Highly Commended, Bridport prize 2015

The Bends

And let this be a lesson, frogmen,

to those who return too fast from a foreign element, the punishment
is terrible. Terrible for those like Icarus

who believe they’ve mastered the other place
with feathers glued to bamboo shoots, or prosthetic webbing.

Sojourners, be humble
as the earthworm is humble.

He embraces the earth, lets it pass through him, he burrows he eats
           his element,
blind, deaf, mute. He knows the vengeance of birds, their iron beaks.
So when you rise in a cacophony of bubbles

through the ocean’s unmeasured mass,
come back slowly. Listen

to your breathing.
Think of the half-opened door of the moon, how it let slip
men into its bare pantry.

Of the tips of mountains and their time-lock on life,
and be thankful for yours.


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