INTERVIEW: FIRE & DUST MEETS MATT DUGGAN
“I’m not wiping sweat from my forehead
but cobwebs from the metal ferns;
I appear to be drunk on 23rd street
having forgot the name of my hotel again;
I see the scaffolds around famous Chelsea
having forgot the name of my hotel again;
Her velvet claws are sticking out
like the hotels’ sharpened teeth dripping blood
onto the fire hydrants and the busy streets below;
I talk with bar-men who speak with two accents
yellow cabs pierce tall smoky traffic queues
hear a city that never sleeps whisper to me […]”
– from ‘Midnight in New York’
Matt Duggan’s poems have appeared in various respected literary journals, including Osiris, Fly on the Wall, Confluence and Marble. In 2015, his first full collection Dystopia 38.10 was awarded the ‘erbacce-prize for poetry’ and he also won the ‘Into the Void’ prize in 2016. Matt has given readings of his work all over the UK (including at Cheltenham Poetry Festival as part of a For the Silent anthology event), in Italy, and in Boston, New York and Philadelphia. His second full collection, Woodworm – it’s got a 3D book cover (glasses included!) – has just been published by Hedgehog Poetry Press. He describes Woodworm as a collection “highlighting our post-truth ills” with poetic explorations of topics like class, politics, war, self-censorship…and myths of drunken Aztec Rabbit Gods.
In June 2019, Matt Duggan travelled from Bristol to be our Fire & Dust headline poet and treat us to the first ever live reading from Woodworm. We caught up with him after the event, to ask a few questions…
What inspired you to start writing and performing poetry?
I suppose I write to highlight certain social ills, truths, and our surroundings. I like to enter in the politics of the human condition; these inspire me to write, and in poetry you can express anything you want within reason, without it being censored too much and what I like is what hides beneath the image and the meaning. This has always fascinated me, the strength of the hidden.
Do you write in any other forms, or is poetry your main calling?
No, I write mainly poetry but I have been putting together a collection of stories and observations about travel and thoughts on the poetry scene, which has been getting bigger and bigger as the years pass. Which maybe one day will surface into a book.
Who is your work aimed at – do you have an audience in mind when you’re putting a poem or track together?
My work is aimed at everyone – for local barmaid, builder, office clerk. I try to involve various tastes and interests, but when I’m writing I never have a particular audience or mindset in mind.
We enjoyed your Fire & Dust gig. In your own words, what can audiences expect if they come to see a Matt Duggan poetry set?
Thank you so much. I loved performing in Coventry with such a receptive and engaged audience, and I sold some books, which was great. I suppose a normal set from Woodworm will consist of poems on class, politics, self-censorship, travel, a tongue-in-cheek look at social-media, trustafarians, the nepotism of literary cliques, the middle-class – plus more serious work on war, grief, growing up in the 1980s, dissent, and the media-led distraction that we deal with every day.
What messages(s) do you hope readers take away from Wormwood?
I’d like the message they take from the book to be taking control with what distracts and makes us apathetic, a search to reveal only the truth in oneself and the ability to question without judgement or consequence our surroundings and our leaders.
Do you read a lot of poetry yourself? Which collections/performers have recently made an impression on you?
Yes, I do read a lot of collections and chapbooks and recent favourites for me have been The Paper House by Karen Dennison, Laureate’s Block by Tony Harrison, Incidentals by Mary Gilonne, and America, and How! by Penny Rimbaud.
In your opinion, what are the most important elements for creating a “good” poem?
Imagery for me is one of the elements, and a poem must stand out from the rest, and also something that is punchy but not cliqued with awful samey rhymes. A poem must sometimes unsettle yet deliver a mix of language, image and form.
Your work has been featured in loads of journals and magazines – can you offer some top tips for writers who want to successfully submit a poem to a publication?
Look at the journals and get to know the poems they publish, maybe subscribe to a few of them. But don’t ever be put off by any rejection or pushy editors wanting to change a line or word, for one editor will dislike it and another will love it – and do keep editing until you feel the poem and the voice in the poem are ready.
When you performed in the USA and Italy, did attending those gigs feel like a different experience, compared to British ones? Were there any noticeable differences between their poetry scenes and what’s happening over here?
Yes, I found a huge difference in the lit scenes of the U.S. and UK; they seem to just do things slightly different, as I found the scenes in Boston and NYC completely different in style and performance, but both equally impressive, as was the local scene in Philly. But one thing is evident: that the passion to hear more poets performing is loved by so many.
Where can people get hold of your book?
Thanks, and yes please. They can pick up a signed copy direct from me.
£12.00 (UK) (Includes P & P and 3D glasses)
Payment via Paypal: https://www.paypal.me/MattDuggan0
What projects/performances have you got coming up next?
I will be performing in London at the Poetry Café for the event and book launch of ‘Woodworm’. I also recently became one of the winners of the Naji Naaman’s Literary Prize, which means they will be publishing a new full collection of mine titled Flesh & Bones,with an invitation to perform and pick up my award at the ceremony early in 2020.
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