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Making Writing Matter



To those wondering how on earth Autumn has crept up so quickly despite having arrived late – September’s the cruellest; Eliot & Pound had it all wrong, man – I’m right there with you. 2011 looks to have sped on by, and it doesn’t seem a year ago that I was writing about Matter 10 – the decade anniversary issue of the mag published out of Sheffield Hallam University’s renowned MA Writing course – in this meagre corner of the internet. Yet here we are – or I am, at any rate – typing this up hot-on-the-heels (well, almost) of the launch of Matter 11, a rather funky, hot little pink number, as you’ll see from the above, that wouldn’t look out of place on a coffee table in some swanky hairdressers frequented by gaggles of rich-kid fashionistas.

Were it to find itself in that unfortunate situation, however, unlike the tedious fuckwittery that would odds-on make up the glossy pages of its idiotic neighbours, Matter’s pages are crammed with sharp, witty, gritty, honest, often edifying and, above all, entertaining writing of the highest order. An infuriatingly admirable combo of brains and looks. Something which the editors of Matter 11 have, in part, the guys and gals at Eleven Design to thank for, who not only supplied the striking boards and endpapers, but the fantastically spiky graphics and artwork that pepper its contents.

And what contents. I could point to the guest contributions, not least on the poetry side of things where there’s two new poems apiece from Colette Bryce and Paul Farley (“Brawn” in particular is the kind of fizzing lyric we’ve come to expect from the latter, yet are always surprised by: earthy yet dizzying, familiar yet eerie). But, as ever, the quality of the work here from MA students is easily just as striking. Listening to readers at last Wednesday night’s launch and following up their stuff on the page, I was particularly grabbed by Brigidin Crowther’s “Sylvia’s Wig”, a short story that mixes deadpan wit and fun-poking with an odd seriousness; the bite, quiet desperation, and unshowy wordplay of Matt Clegg’s sonnet “Raw Poem in Smooth Room”; and the almost Martian-like avian reimaginings of Suzannah Evans’ poem “Catalogue D’Oiseaux”.

All good reasons to get yourself a copy from the Blackwell’s on Hallam campus. The place has a top-notch modest poetry section, too, which being something of a rarity these days, is definitely worth a visit. Or, if you fancy listening to some of the contributors’ read in person over a glass of plonk or two, you can head to the London launch: 3rd November, 7pm, at the London Review Bookshop, so I'm told.

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Liverpool FC and poetry have a lot of previous – from John Toshack’s Gosh It’s Tosh collection in the late 70s, to the verse of Dave Kirby and Peter Etherington in the fanzine Red All Over the Land, to the lines written by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, a University of Liverpool graduate, in the aftermath of 2012’s Hillsborough findings. Now there’s Ben Wilkinson, Reds fan and book critic for The Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement, who’s compiling a series of poems commemorating the club’s legends. “Football is part of the fabric of life, and anything that’s important to people finds its way into poetry,” he says. “Wilfred Owen’s poem 'Disabled' describes a soldier who loses the use of his legs, meaning he can never play football again. Philip Larkin’s 'MCMXIV' compares boys queuing to join the army to fans outside Villa Park. These poems have stood the test of time because t…

About the Author

Welcome to the website of the English poet and critic, Ben Wilkinson.
Ben was born in Staffordshire and now lives in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. He received his first degree from the University of Sheffield, and holds an MA and PhD from Sheffield Hallam University. He has won numerous awards for his poetry, including the Poetry Business Competition and a 2014 Northern Writers' Award
His debut full collection of poems, Way More Than Luck, appeared from Seren Books in February 2018.
He is a keen distance runner, lifelong Liverpool Football Club fan, and among other things he works as poetry critic for The Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement. You can find many of his reviews on this site.
To contact Ben about readings, workshops, or for any other enquiries, you can drop him a line at benwilko(at sign)gmail.com. Unfortunately, I am not able to consider unsolicited requests from authors for book reviews.

You can follow Ben on Twitter - @BenWilko85 - and on Facebook.

You can find B…

Way More Than Luck (Seren Books, 2018)

From the thumping heartbeat of the distance runner to the roar of football terraces across the decades, Ben Wilkinson’s debut confronts the struggles and passions that come to shape a life. Beginning with an interrogation of experiences of clinical depression and the redemptive power of art and running, the collection centres on a series of vivid character portraits, giving life to some of football's legends. By turns frank, comic, sinister and meditative – ‘the trouble with you, son, is that all your brains are in your head’ – these poems uncover the beautiful game’s magic and absurdity, hopes and disappointments, as striking metaphors for our everyday dramas. Elsewhere there are tender love poems, political satire and strange dream worlds, in an urgently lyrical book of poems that take many forms and modes of address: pantoum, sonnet, sestina; epistle, confession, dramatic monologue. All are united by a desire to speak with searching clarity about matters of the heart. Way More …