Cutting the Clouds Towards
The poems in this fifth collection of his poetry were written before, during and after Matt Simpson's two-month period as poet-in-residence at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston, Tasmania. Most of the poems are responses to encounters with the work and life of the mid-nineteenth-century writer and artist, Louisa Anne Meredith, who spent the first part of her life in Birmingham and who was already established as author and artist before, at the age of twenty-seven, she married her cousin, Charles, and emigrated to Australia. The Merediths were subsequently to spend most of the rest of their lives in Tasmania. Simpson follows Mrs Meredith there, creating an imaginative relationship with her and in his poetry (in the words of John Lucas in his Foreword to this book) 'exploring in different ways his sense of engagement with a person, a place, and, more remarkably, of hers and it with him. For among the most astonishing features of this intensely creative engagement is the way Mrs Meredith herself emerges as a full and complex character, witty, resilient, keenly observant, even able to rebuke the poet for his "arrogance of hindsight". At the same time, Matt Simpson engages with the familiar theme in his previous work, now a personal quest of following his seafaring father to the other side of the world. All those who know Simpson's poems will see this as a continuation and some sort of resolution of what much of his work has been concerned with to date. He completes a sort of odyssey though his arrival in Tasmania, a journey which began many years earlier with his father's tales of Tasmania. John Lucas again: 'It takes a rare poet to risk weaving into his own work moments from and allusions to The Tempest, that most authoritative and mysterious of plays, but his poems triumphantly surmount that danger. That they should do so helps us to recognise how assured and compelling is Matt Simpson's achievement.'