The Bootle bard delivered us SONGS, now the poetic Pied Piper leads us on merry and not so merry DANCES.

Before his promising debut collection of poems sold out in mega quick time, Matthew Thomas Smith suggested, Manic Street Preacher-like, that SONGS would be delivered and then he would split up. It is to our benefit that he has decided to reform Matthew Thomas Smith and release DANCES, because it delivers on all of the promises made in SONGS, apart from the splitting up of course.

It was inevitable that Matthew Thomas Smith couldn’t keep his vow because one senses that he feels a restless need to share with others the things he sees in the sometimes ugly, sometimes lovely landscapes of his life, and as such DANCES delivers a collection of vivid and utterly recognisable poetic vignettes.

Jeff Young’s glowing introduction begins with him telling us that Matthew “walks for miles…” It was Friedrich Nietzsche  who wrote, “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” 

It would seem so.

Opening suitably with a beautiful snapshot of time spent with his daughter Tilda, Matthew takes us on a journey through his daily life with acute observations and delicately delivered poetical and political observations.  Wherever he is, he seems to pick out the beauty and nature that is all around but rarely seen by less keen eyes and in DANCES one of the over-arching concerns appears to be access to green spaces, pristine rivers, and clean air. A number of the poems highlight the ongoing battle between progress and nature such as Burbo Bank, A father and son fish the Leeds Liverpool canal, Outskirts and the mini-epic Rimrose Valley. Similarly, the astonishing Neon Lights conjures up visions of brilliant wonder on a clear and cold Liverpool night.

However,  Matthew Thomas Smith is not solely concerned with environment issues and so we are treated to further musings and recognisable themes on the people that enter his private sphere.

Please help me Doctor Gillespie, We were in love and  Another loft extension attest to the strains, the stresses and  the struggle of living in 21st Century Britain, but beneath the main body of the poems, a hint of sardonic humour can often be detected.

DANCES can be read with either knowledge or ignorance of the wonderful city of Liverpool because it consists of observations that are brilliantly applicable to every town and city up and down the land, and will have the reader nodding in recognition,  Shrine being a prime example, saying so much in a mere 11 short lines, Bus conversation another.

Aside from the afore-refernced Tilda watch the stars (with a nod to French band Air – lest we forget Matthew Thomas Smith is also one seventh of the utterly brilliant musical behemoth Psycho Comedy), the characters in his work could be your next door neighbour, your relative, or the customer who gets on your nerves at the local shop. Aside from his daughter there are only two readily identifiable characters who waltz into DANCES, Eric, a stop you in your tracks  poem of heartbreak and the laugh out load The poet laureate should not wear jeans – a recognisable figure to anyone familiar with current GCSE poetry.

DANCES cements Matthew Thomas Smith’s reputation as this generation’s Merseybeat poet. The beat he walks to is not skiffle or rock ‘n’ roll, it is very much a 21st century saunter that at times swaggers in awe at the beauty of some of what he sees, but also stutters at the ugliness that trespass onto it.

In years to come, DANCES like SONGS will enable the reader of the future to picture our times with precision, and Matthew Thomas Smith’s poetry is more relevant and vital than any poet laureate’s.

by Gregory Topalian

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Jack McGahan

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