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Literature & Arts Special Issue

In the pastoral heart of Staffordshire, Harry Matthews first encountered the allure of nature amidst a backdrop of early turmoil, before progressing through the academic portals of school in Shropshire and later, the University of Reading.

As a painter-poet, he imbues his book covers with the hues of his spirit. He traverses the opaque divide between anonymity and cult adoration, zealously maintaining his poetic independence while honing his artistic voice.

Matthews crafts a tapestry of dichotomies, summoning both the strange and the splendid, a bard with a yearning for truth and wisdom. He delves into his own existence to inspire his poetic profundities. He is also a doctoral researcher of Richard Barnfield, emerging with revelations that cast light on a neglected early modern poet. His involvement in a Roman symposium, a confluence of the poetic and the scholarly, offered a peek into his curious intellect.

His verse? A maelstrom of change, where experience and insight is transmuted by the spark of creativity. It’s a tamed odyssey across the planes of reality, as intricate and winding as the creativity that propels it – Matthews is, above all, a poet who infuses words with fervor.

In his second collection, “Twynd”, he dances with the unexpected, finding triumph in defeat, wisdom in hidden folds of hope. “Hyperion” is a symphony of divine fire, a tragic tapestry woven with love and loss: Baffled plumbs the depths of self and other, where reality and fiction blur in a poetic embrace.

His alliterative prowess in “Woodwose” – it’s a rhythmic incantation, reverberates through the soul. Each line, a line  is a dance of sound and sense, evoking enchanting apprehsnions of surreal and natural beauty.

In “Idylls of the Nympahi” – Matthews captures the ephemeral, the fleeting moments of natural splendour in verses that echo the subtle power of nature. Nephele paints a world reborn in sunlight, tracing a path down to the sea, a silent illumination.

But who is Harry Matthews? He’s an enigmatic man, a poet and a scholar. His poetry embodies every contradiction and paradox on the edge of light and darkness.

His poetry is a journey of the heart, exploring the mysterious depths of allusion and metaphor. In Matthews’ world, the thunderous roar of the sea is a muffled echo within us, a call to the wild that resides in every heart.

His poems are not just written; they are felt, discovered, and unravelled. Each reading is an act of pleasure, a communal unearthing of hidden complexities. Whether read aloud or in the quiet solitude of the mind, Matthews’ poetry is a profound experience, a celebration of life in all its beautiful contradictions.

Early Influences:

“My life started in the rural landscapes of Staffordshire, where I grew up amidst the wild things, crafting my own languages within the pages of an old atlas. My early years were more than just school; they were a crucible that shaped me into the poet and artist I am today. Post-university, I ventured abroad in search of the bizarre and the profound. Returning to Shropshire felt like a renaissance into the familiar yet mysterious—a journey of reacquaintance.”

Interplay of Poetry and Painting:

“In the primal dance of creation, poetry arises from the mind’s dark, fertile soil, and painting springs from the same untamed essence. As a hawk soars above the terrain, each form may yield to the other. Now, the hawk rests upon poetry, yet painting and poetry are akin to twin creatures questing for the same eternal verities within the heart’s wilderness.”

Contrasts in Poetry:

“In the labyrinth of my verses, I explore the duality of existence – the coexistence of the sacred and profane, light and shadow, the known and the unknowable. This dance of contrasts is akin to walking through the wilderness, seeking both the echo and the voice, to understand what can be revealed within the human soul.”

Prolific Writing and Maintaining Quality:

“The journey from conception to fruition of a poem may span from the brief flicker of a candle to the enduring glow of the northern lights. My ninth collection, “Awaken in Seascape”, was written in my spare time, over the course a year, while engaged in academic research.”

Transfigurative Poetry:

“Transfiguration in poetry is, to me, an alchemy that turns the mundane into the sublime, the ordinary into the divine. It is a pursuit to encapsulate the ephemeral beauty of the world and to immortalise the transient through the crucible of language.”

Unconventional Writing Style:

Being a transformative poet means venturing beyond conventional boundaries. It is a pilgrimage across the barren landscape of language and form. To captivate with unconventionality is to beguile and seize the reader’s attention, guiding them through unknown realms with the allure of discovery, epiphany, awakening and wonder.”

Significant Works:

“‘Hyperion’ emerges from the crucible of personal anguish, a forge where simplicity is the highest form of sophistication. It’s a work that distils complex emotions into a purer, more accessible form, reflective of life’s profoundest truths.”

Capturing Reality:

“Poetry, my sanctuary, is the lens through which the chaos of reality is distilled into clarity. It’s the heart’s eye, capturing the world not as it is, but as it’s felt and imagined, a bridge spanning the chasm between the tangible and the ineffable.”

Influence of Scholarly Background:

“My academic pursuits in early modern poetry are but a facet of my language’s prism. While they inform my forays into the surreal and mystical, my poetry often transcends scholarly boundaries to capture a reality that is as bewildering as it is beguiling, seeking to unify the paradoxical and liberate the unseen.”

Advice to Aspiring Poets:

“For those embarking on the poet’s journey, remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Embrace both the rigors of discipline and the chaos of creativity. Study the masters, wrestle with the rules, then let your unique voice soar on the wings of unfettered expression.”

Dream Collaboration:

“To collaborate with Taliesin, the ancient bard, would be to drink from a wellspring of primal creativity. Yet, a fusion with a fantasy writer for a young adult audience promises a delightful foray into realms unbound by the fetters of adult cynicism.”

Recognition by Magazine:

“The recognition by Voraka Magazine is a gratifying nod to the labour of love that each collection represents. It’s not just about reaching a wider audience; it’s about connecting, reappraising, the shared human experience that poetry, at its best, can evoke – be it a chuckle or a tear, a nod of understanding, or a gasp of surprise, or a grasp of realisation.”

Barnfield Conference 2023


The Richard Barnfield Legacy Conference, held at Sapienza University of Rome from February 9th to 10th, 2023, presented a remarkable array of scholarly work, analysing the intricate aspects of Richard Barnfield’s poetry and influence. My own contribution was the presentation of the paper titled ‘”Otherwise (then) In Truth I meant”: Homoeroticism in Richard Barnfield’s Poetry,’ delivered on February 10th at 10 am. This session was expertly chaired by Professor Andrew Hadfield of Sussex University.

The paper’s exploration of homoerotic themes within Barnfield’s work was both insightful and thought-provoking, offering a fresh perspective on the poet’s legacy. The presentation skilfully navigated complex literary analysis, making a compelling case for re-examining the undercurrents of Barnfield’s poetry through the lens of homoeroticism.

Audience engagement was notably high during this session, with the paper receiving an overwhelmingly positive response. The depth of research and eloquence in delivery marked this presentation as a significant contribution to the conference. It not only enriched the attendees’ understanding of Barnfield’s work but also sparked lively discussions and debates, further emphasising the paper’s impact.

The success of so many fascinating papers at the conference is a testament to the ongoing relevance of Richard Barnfield’s poetry in contemporary literary studies. Updates from the conference were actively shared on Twitter under @BarnfieldConf23, fostering a wider engagement with the academic community.

Overall, the “Living Fame No Fortune Can Confound”: Richard Barnfield’s Legacy Conference was a once in a generaton opporunity to celebrate the poetry of Richard Barnfield, and a memorable and valuable conference to the field of early modern literary studies.

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