Review of The Bends in PN Review

By Joe Carrick-Varty

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. Barnard capitalises on this self-imposed freedom to look by creating images out of anything and everything, constantly reimagining and recalibrating the things within his poems. The eel is never merely an eel, it is the ‘Dark river of itself’, it is a ‘story told to the end’, it is ‘a god’ (or could be). So you’d expect vagueness, then? Generics? Scatterbrain? You’d be wrong. A kind of funnelling occurs; a great collecting and sifting; a boiling down towards a rich sediment of patchwork particularities. And the result? Coastlines with ‘dark bergs’ for islands; ‘a vision of heaven’ witnessed through ‘the cartoon-eye of the plane’; an empty house where ‘the windows are shuttered / and the washing line / is free to glint and click against its posts’. An image brimming with that perfect kind of absence; the glinting and clicking kind, so still you can actually hear the glint.

PN Review

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