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Woodworm by Matt Duggan
Reviewed by Darren J Beaney
Matt Duggan is blessed with a voice that was made to recite poetry. A wonderful West Country lilt that holds your attention and satisfies. He is also blessed with the ability to write superb poetry, stringing together words in such a way to leave you wanting more. Woodworm is a magnificent example of Matt’s poetic talent. A collection of poems that feel very modern, at times reflecting the 21stCentury angst that many of use experience in our lives; yet his style of writing also retains a degree of the traditional. As such Woodworm should appeal to all lovers of poetry.
For me this collection resonates the most because Matt is not afraid to take a swipe at conventional society and the state it finds itself in, often jabbing his finger at the ways of the capitalist world, ready to point out its many failings. And that assault on the norm starts with The Citadel, the poem that kicks starts the book. Matt reminds us of the view held by some that homelessness and being on the fringes of society are not acceptable to those who believe their way is the right way, as he describes ‘dystopian fly-traps laid out to deter the homeless’, a sight that is becoming far to common, even in my quiet neck of the woods, something that Matt emphasises with the line – ‘I look onto a world as a stranger in a very familiar and unequal land…’ It is this understated way of pointing out the obvious (things that at times have become invisible) that is one of Matt’s strengths.
There is not much of our modern world, way of life and types of thinking that doesn’t get a tough examination from Matt. He shows his dismay at the increased use of drone warfare in Questioning the space between drones, pours disdain on the world of Social Media with the increased worship of ‘algorithms and selfie sticks’, although I very much doubt that the subjects in his poem would know an algorithm if it worked out a way to slap them in the face. The transformation of Sebastian Gilmour would be much funnier if it wasn’t so scarily true, I am sure that he is not the only one to have met such a person, all too willing to abandon their principles once they have been seduced by the basic principles of capitalism.
In The plight of the working-class, Matt draws upon the history of late 20th Century Britain, illustrating the effect of Thatcher’s dog eat dog philosophy and the promise of opportunity in a Tory world. He dwells upon the mass defection from the Labour movement by the working classes, lied to by the popular tabloid press, simply put as – ‘When a worker puts down his newspaper doesn’t believe what he reads anymore’ and the destruction of workers’ rights and the undermining of the Trades Union movement – ‘… by trying to down all of his work tools. A worker is then labelled a shirker, commie…’
But Woodworm is not all an attack on capitalist politics, Matt also shows his warmer, affectionate side – When foxes come out to play and Butterfly are both as good as they are simple, both are beautiful descriptions of the natural world at its best. For me though, Tenderness is perhaps one of my favourite poems in the collection, the opening lines are majestic – ‘Drop a heart into a glass
watch the glass start to expand
place a lid or plate over its circular top’
The whole poem booms with warmth and beautifully lives up to its title – I wish this were a poem that I had written!
Woodworm is a collection that I heartedly recommend, written by an important poetic voice. It reminds us of the world we live in – the good and the bad – and will remind you to both get angry with things but retain your love of things that are just.
Buy it, read it, read it again and again and if you ever get the chance to hear Matt read his poems take the opportunity and listen attentively.