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.
Reviews of The Bends:
Poet and critic Joe Carrick-Varty in PN Review 242 – ‘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…’ Read the full review here.
Poet and critic Malcolm Bradley in Acumen 90 – ‘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…’ Read the full review here.
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
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.