Style Curious


Curious poet in residence, Matt Bryden

We’ve chosen World Book Day to introduce our Poet in Residence, Matt Bryden. Matt will be contributing poems related to the themes and trends featured at ShopCurious. He’ll also be adding verse to his World Poetry Map (see below). Matt’s work as an EFL teacher has taken him to Tuscany, Poland and the Czech Republic. As a set of emotional and geographical references, these experiences have fed through to his writing, and form the basis of this unique psychogeographical project.

The provisional title of Matt’s first poetry collection was Boxing the Compass, which means the wind spinning 360° and – figuratively – changing your mind and changing it back, “I was getting at the fact that travel can change everything external to you, but you can’t escape yourself, “ he says. The Night Sky – the name he settled on, follows his pamphlet Night Porter, which documents life in a Yorkshire Hotel, and won the Templar Pamphlet and Collection Prize in 2010. Matt is currently taking an MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths University.

I interviewed Matt to find out what makes him curious…

“It might be the signature of the artist (be it film, music, photography, art, architecture) evident in the contrast of an image with music, or an unusual stress, that makes me open my eyes and ears. I’m also drawn to things I don’t fully understand. It’s instructive to watch films in foreign languages. I suppose I want to be exposed to things.” In his classes, Matt actually teaches the phrase ‘to take an interest’, emphasizing the fact that “you have to actively take that first step yourself. If you are bored, then that is a comment on you. You get what you give.”

“It’s curious when poetry has an effect on us and we can’t initially work out why. There’s a kind of hypnosis produced by a line like this from Winter Trees by Sylvia Plath: The wet dawn inks are doing their blue dissolve.” As far as his own work is concerned, Matt explains that he’s “especially interested in reaching people who wouldn’t usually think poetry appeals to them. Any reader is a potential reader.” And he’s also a musician, who, “got into language and a sense of voice through music – Bob Dylan, The Fall, old folk songs.” He has a repertoire of around 100 songs and, as a result, his writing is often sound-led, so he has to “backtrack to make things clear to the reader.”

Matt is hoping to publish his first full collection within the next year, which will be the summation of about eight years’ work. “Apart from that, it’s my experiences and friendships I most value. A few years ago, when I was unemployed for a period, I told myself that while I didn’t have much to show for my years, the sum of my experiences and interests to that point gave me a unique perspective. Writing is good in that way – what might be termed negative experiences can be grist to the mill.” A throwback to his days on the dole is that he’s able to survive without much – “hot buttered toast and black tea are underrated,” he says.

Additional inspiration comes from, “remote places, and long walks,” he explains… “My girlfriend’s parents live on Exmoor, and we go stir crazy if we can’t get away there for a while. I love the sea. There are places in the world which I think back to, often as pivotal moments. Sitting on a piece of driftwood in Maremma National Park, facing the Isle of Elba is one. Standing on a promontory in Tuscany as water splashed about me on a map carved into the stone listing the four winds Eurus, Boreas, Zephyr and Auster is another. I took my bearings and faced England and realised how far I was from home.” In London, he likes, “cinemas before or after the credits roll. On the continent it’s the image of an English pub which calls to me when surrounded by nothing but brightly-lit bars.”

He’d love to have had dinner with Ted Hughes, “it would be in the countryside – Devon or Yorkshire – and involve lots of walking: initially to reach the cottage, where home cooked food would be served, before we explored a cellar, and walked it off afterwards. Laureate’s sherry. A cheeseboard. Whisky. We’d probably get the Ouija board out, too.”

Is there anything else we should know about Matt? “I’m good at throwing myself into positions which might later seem to be madness. For example, performing four songs by Bob Dylan at the Latitude Poetry tent when I had never previously used a microphone and my previous biggest audience had been a room of four people.”

If you’re curious to discover more about Matt Bryden’s unique journey in life, click on the link below to see, read and hear more about this groundbreaking project: