{An Umbrella Invitational}

Matt Merritt

is an English journalist and poet. His debut chapbook, Making The Most Of The Light, was published in 2005 by HappenStance Press and he has appeared in British and US magazines, e-zines and anthologies, including Magma, Boxcar Poetry Review, Poetry Nottingham and Envoi.

He was the winner of the 2004 Plough Poetry Prize, and runner-up in BBC Wildlife Poet Of The Year 2007. He lives near Leicester and works as production editor at Bird Watching magazine. His blog is Polyolbion.

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Show, Don’t Tell

Absence is everything. We know that by now.
It is enough to write of how
the days are marked by a darkness
puddling in the valley bottom like river mist,

that the few bright stars are revealed
as porchlights on the hillsides when morning arrives,
that I know my neighbours only
from their footfalls on rainy, taxi-hour paths.
That it is always turning late in the year. So

you will understand me when I say that
that sound you hear behind me
there, again!
is not static or the cross-traffic
of a thousand relay stations
but the night, raw and gaping,
hammering, hammering on the skylight.

Artist’s Statement

I ’d written poetry on and off from my mid-teens, without sending it anywhere (thank God—it was awful). Every now and then I’d get discouraged and give up, but I did keep reading a lot of contemporary poetry, and it was all a bit like quitting drinking every time I had a hangover—deep down I knew I’d keep going back to it.

Then, about five years ago, I was sitting in the car at dusk waiting to pick up a friend from work when I started writing this poem. It started like all my work had up to then—a straightforward attempt to record a particular moment. I think, I hope, that it does that, but it was also an attempt (especially the last few lines) to capture something a bit less tangible. I’m no fan of obscurity for its own sake, but for the first time I arrived at a blend of the straightforward and the almost-grasped—exactly the blend I wanted.

As it turned out, I didn’t finish the poem until about a year ago, but that moment was just the spark I needed. I wrote other poems, and started getting a few published, and I haven’t stopped. I’m still not certain about how it works on its own terms, but I can’t help feeling an affection for it, just because it spurred me on when I most needed it.