Silver Branch series:

Matt Gilbert

Matt Gilbert 2.jpg
matt G 3.jpg

Photos by: Abi Fellows 2022

Matt Gilbert is a freelance copywriter, who also blogs about place, books and other distractions at richlyevocative.net Originally from Bristol, he currently gets his fill of urban hills in South East London. He has had poems published in a wide variety of places, including: Anthropocene, Atrium, Black Bough, Briefly Write, Broken Sleep, Broken Spine, Cerasus, The Dawntreader (Indigo Dreams), Dreich, Fevers of the Mind, Flights, Green Ink, Ink Sweat & Tears, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Marble Poetry and Mono Fiction. Matt is also a former host of @TopTweetTuesday on Twitter and was a finalist in the #BBMicro competition run by Black Bough.

Red Echoes

 

Shifting presence, unshaped,

spirits through rock; 

the dancers stirred

 

by echoes and breath.

Red of earth, they quicken,

as depthless fluidities unleashed; 

 

sleepers leap and                    

tears rise through granite 

from the well of a pulsing duct.  

 

Published in Black Bough's Deep Time project

 

Starless

 

Ink river, a thousand feet

below the night,
fill your starless pools,

dissolve all limestone words.

 

Chart a course of absence

down through chambers

of unmapped pages, where all

reflection must be reversed

 

Or lost –

press on, time-hollower,

glister at the first and last,

sparkle as you meet the sea.

Published in Black Bough's Deep Time project

 

 

The derelict

Clawing under sickly yellow light, bramble tendrils writhe

with bindweed, pale trumpets issue soundless warnings

not to stray here, at this broken place, but they are ignored

by shadows leaking out, shambling down October streets.

This poem was a finalist in #BBMicro on Twitter

Late rain

 

Rain at last, its absence swollen

into unfamiliar ache, deformed

these weeks of dry mouth heat,

 

Like a taunted dog, lawn grass growls,

refusing to perform, stays sullen

brown, liquid washing off its back,

 

Resistance broken by a scattering

of thirsty crocus, seasonally confused,

a grinning crowd of petalled teeth.

 

Adrift

 

One sun-parched leaf lingers,

a comma between seasons, this

suspended point in time is not in fact

of autumn, but turned by summer heat,

too fierce to have been natural, ungreened

early, it hangs now like a warning

from a thread, surely crafted by a spider,

an accidental catch, although dead, the thing

is so useful as a symbol, it almost feels as if

it must be sprung from somewhere else.

Garden bag resurrection

 

A crumpled green face sags

beneath the hedge, revealing age lines

born of foliage, the clipped, dry stalk

death-mask of unwanted matter, except,

for a poke of desiccated cuttings,

where worker bees navigate a narrow gap,

one, two, three, they make their way inside,

reinventing space, bridging hope and ruin,

as each returns to greet a buried queen.

 

 

January

 

In the ash,

winter stripped

a rooted menorah,

woodpigeon waits

 

Fat stone

silhouette,

feathered iris,

stilled, below

corrupted sky.

Urban rewilding

 

Those woods on the ridge,

through the window,

if watched from a certain angle,

will roll over the roads,

untame the suburbs,

reclaim the shape

of old maps – all chimneys

and aerials can be bundled away,

with a half-hunched flick of the head,

church spire and estate put out of sight,

sent to the back of the mullion,

by the turn of your face,

before every storey of the block to the east,

is pushed from the frame,

the people swept off their feet,
so that all city crows,
the pigeons, the starlings

can safely be recast as rural,

in a tidy, green scene that never existed,

not like this, not like this.

 

 

Wall versus Tree

Struggling to flash

a not quite rainbow

smile, (spray-painted

years after going up),

onto its crumpled face,

old wall juts out

- a random tooth,

sprung from gummy soil,

beside an abandoned railway line,

- seems to speak of loss and gain,

while a grasping oak’s snake roots,

bones exposed,

slowly tear the bricks apart,

the tree lives, but is so severely pollarded,

bark stripped, sap bled,

it might be said

to welcome death itself.

 

 

Mosquito dreams

All colour bled out,

all shape vague,

edges softened,

I awake into the soup

warm, half-dark,

dragged by noises I recall

I should find fearful –

a high-pitched droning whine,

which for the little fly behind it,

may well be a love song,

but for me trips a terror

of tiny bites, the signal to flap

hands, panic, an awkward reminder,

that in the end, I am not nearly big enough

to cherish every other creature of this earth.

A trip to the electric islands

 

Must have sounded modern once, The Electric Café. Its wavy, swirl-tailed, painted signpost lettering, a reflection of a thrusting world, last century, or the back-end of the one before.

Today, the café’s charm persists through facing backwards. Nothing fancy, this is a proper old school, greasy spoon, still serving bubble, along with bacon, eggs, mushrooms and the rest. You pay in cash. You may plump for a generous mug of tea, or filter coffee if you want it, but the classic drink is instant coffee, topped with frothed boiled milk – drawn from a slender, stainless-steel hot tap, set into the counter.

Each brown, formica-topped table in here’s an island, within a scattered archipelago – connected with its neighbours through shared hungry purpose, though fiercely independent. Every border post, enforced by the glass screen of a mobile phone, or less common now, the rustle of a fast-flicked tabloid. Plastic bottles of generic brown and red sauce, stand sentinel – lost modernist bishops, wandered far from chessboard.

When someone rattles through the door, they sometimes look confused, peering at the breakfast options, or touching hands to mouths, uncertain. If a regular, they’ll get a nodded ‘alright’ from the proprietor Stav. If not, most nervously approach the till, eyes clutching at the menu, but some retreat, befuddled, straight back out to Norwood Road.

For someone half-obsessed with goodbyes, with loss, I love this place for its arrivals. Big plates brought out, piled with freshly fried ingredients, ready to deliver twenty-minute hits of melting salt-fat comfort and yolky potato, before recipients must scrape back their chairs and return, reluctant, to the mainland once again. 

Matt G 1.jpg

"Matt Gilbert's writing marvels in the spirit of place; his poetry wanders, camera-like, along overgrown tracks through woods, riverbanks, wastegrounds that are rewilding; he takes us on journeys to greening edgelands that spill into urban decay. Gilbert 's eye pans, then zooms in, on the minutiae that most of us ignore, the neglected details of our physical environment. Matt Gilbert is a descriptive, modern poet of nature with a scalpel-like pen and eye for the arresting image as he quietly transcribes, always searching for the near-perfect word and phrase. He plunges us into deep time, recording mysterious odysseys into the places, traces and symbols of the ancient past."

Matthew M. C. Smith

Photo credit: Sam Gilbert

Purdown BT Tower.jpg
Ashley Vale.jpg
Harlowbridge.jpg

Harlow’s northern edge

This bridge might be a translocation

from a multi-storey car park, dropped

here, to become an unofficial dream, ripped

from the words of Richard Mabey, perched

above the blur lands between countryside and town,

suspended near the Stort – a concrete walkway

zig-zags sharply over congealed water, densely fringed

with alder, urgent ash, lurking in an algae green zone

between A414 and river, where, along with fish and frogs,

a heron could be stalking zombies, but beneath its dragonfly

prowled surface, the only sign of life is a winking silver prow,

a square holed wreck, once host to weekly shopping,

never meant for sailing, not yet lost to rust.

In Matt Gilbert's own words

"Whilst I can’t lay claim to a comprehensive, personal poetic manifesto, I do have an approach of sorts. Like many others, since a very young age, I’ve loved the natural – or more than human – world. For almost as long, I’ve been fascinated with ghosts, the supernatural and with a sense of place. Since childhood, I’ve also been quite anxious (though, these days I’m better at hiding it).

Often, when trying to write a poem, I aim to bring these elements together. I don’t apply this as a strict formula: bird + landscape + weird + angst = poem, but I do find that a mix of these things can provide an interesting way in. Which is helpful in attempting to find an alternative, intriguing angle – let’s face it, the poetry world is not exactly short of middle-class white men, sighing over waves and oaks and robins.

 

I find a sense of the eerie and unease about a place (usually in a city or a suburb), or the sudden appearance, or absence of a plant or creature, excites me. These are feelings and situations I tend to want to share – whether I encountered them directly, or made them up. The unease aspect, I find is increasingly heightened by concerns over climate disaster and habitat loss.

Once I’m on to a potential subject, I start to play. By ear mostly - my technical skills are not the best, although I’m trying to sharpen these through reading. Beyond that, I guess I want what all writers want – to share a feeling, an idea, a vision – and through the crazy magic of a few well-crafted words, get someone else to smile, or nod, or even shed a tear."

 

Matt Gilbert, September 2022.