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Poetry Review

In examining the poetry of Matthews, one is struck by the complexity and diversity of his work, which upon closer inspection, reveals a striking consistency and straightforwardness. Though attempts have been made to distil his poetic style into a simple formula, such efforts are largely unhelpful and should not be taken seriously.

Matthews’ poetry can be best described as a fusion of the celestial beauty and a systematic approach to poetic structure. His work is underpinned by a consistent metaphysical worldview, and he successfully employs a theory of correspondences to illuminate this perspective.

While the structures and rhyme schemes of his first six collections, as well as his work “Idylls of the Nymphai,” and “Awaken in Seascape,” may seem arbitrarily imposed, Matthews’ poetry is characterised by a tension between order and disarray, coherence and fragmentariness. This duality is evident in the way he engages with the reader, revealing profound insights at unexpected moments.

Matthews’ poetry often eschews weighty themes in favour of what we might call, to adapt a phrase by Matthew Arnold, a “high to low-frivolity.” This approach, combined with a light, unremarkable rhythm and a certain evolving from mere flatness in his exploration of human nature, does elicit some of the mysteries of the world, and means that Matthews can be counted on inspiring. Nevertheless, he is very much a poet of his time, though incorporating romantic and idealistic elements that enhance his work while also paying homage to earlier poetic traditions.

In his praise of the human soul and Spirit, Matthews often seems out of step with the modern world, and his challenges in defining the human condition can sometimes make it difficult to fully appreciate his artistic achievements. Yet, it is important to note that Matthews is not without merit; his poetry is marked by moments of clarity and beauty, and his revisions are often aimed at achieving greater truthfulness in his work. While his poetry may contain elements of obscurity, it is also graced with smooth, beautiful verse of considerable sensitivity, that occasionally gives way to roughness, and more often than not evokes an epiphany, creating a unique and intriguing poetic landscape.


Harry Matthews

un poète et peintre

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