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On My Mother’s Side

Matt Simpson, 7 February 1991

... gurgling suddenly, the phone ... She’s trying numbers, Simpsons in the book. ‘Is that the Matt Simpson that’s at Liverpool University?’ Dear Cousin Marje – there’s just enough love between us now for the announcing of funerals, opening of graves: now her father’s slung his hook, his old heart, straining to lift a clod, a spade, has ...

John Clare’s Horizon

Matt Simpson, 16 March 1989

... had to lie somewhere – hedge or ditch exactly bordering on God. Wanted to know where it lay from Helpston; found it maddening – no end of lanes, of fields where grass and leaves smelt strange, larks babbled other dialects; wandered mile on mile in search of it – an end to far-as-eye-can-see despair; settled on turning round, went home ...

Part of One’s Education

Matt Simpson, 10 May 1990

... Not yet a student of fastidious geisha pillow talk, or subtle sticky desert nights on perfumed rugs, or tendril limbs of Hindu gods exposing how to shag a thousand ways in stone, or chandeliers’ riggish janglings in Paris, Petersburg, nor yet multiple Califoraian kicks ... I’m shown, by Neck Ends, in a dock canteen, the secret of the Biggest Thrill: a fly, he mimes, with wings wrenched off, walking his swollen cock’s bell-end ...
... Liverpudlian’ plays self-mockingly on the idea of ‘pool’. I was born in Liverpool. I would be flattering myself if I claimed that you need to be a comedian to survive there. But Liverpudlians do, like punsters, switch things about: they breathe through their mouths and talk through their noses. They are physiological, existential twisters. Walter Redfern – ‘Puns’ It was always a question of getting on in life, in years ...

Old People’s Home, Balliol Road

Matt Simpson, 26 November 1987

... I myself have seen the wild roses grow upon the very ground which is now the centre of the borough of Bootle. William Ewart Gladstone This road I trogged to school down, eleven-plus, in fluorescing socks and Yankee tie; the solid end of town, Victorian sandstone, tall windows, doors-up-steps, attics for cramping servants in. I drive through blackened gates to tarmac where a garden used to breathe, and ring the bell ...

Three from the Ward

Matt Simpson, 1 September 1988

... for U.A. Fanthorpe Curtains A Busby-Berkeley stunner: thirty-second sequence of curtains swished back one after one all down the ward. I’m standing near my bed, a raw recruit, screened off and hushed. Then trundlings and swivellings on polished boards, quickly in and quickly out, and final curtains scraped back one by one. ‘Behind you! Through the window!’ next-bed said ...

Poems of Passage

Matt Simpson, 5 January 1989

... Father of the Bride Smart and ominous in suits the groom’s brothers, brothers-in-law are clutching cans of lager like grenades; his sisters, sisters-in-law in crockery hats curl fingers round champagne, fill the room with lipstick, teeth; and little lads in dicky bows, little girls all curls in first communion frocks have got the piano cornered and the cat ...

Two Poems

Matt Simpson, 5 February 1987

... Getting the world right ‘Aye, once we get a Protestant Pope,’ my father cheeked shawlies in the snug, hard-nosed chars clattering gangplanks, early-morning mops. Next Door’s would have scowled. Across a creosoted fence we scarcely spoke, their lad-my-age and me. Sometimes at the coalshed and him at the bin, scraping cinders, shovelling coal, I’d try ’Too cold for this ...

Four Poems

Matt Simpson, 19 December 1985

... for. Shameless, cuddling me, you’ll say ‘They got fed up of me, they threw me off the oilrigs, Matt.’ And we’ll guffaw for years and years. And he’ll be there, your Ernie, too, tuned in to Billy Cotton’s Band. And then when it’s two o’clock he’ll wink and nudge you up the wooden hill to do what you did on Sunday afternoons and I’ll let on ...

Paradise Lost

Nicholas Everett, 11 July 1991

Omeros 
by Derek Walcott.
Faber, 325 pp., £17.50, September 1990, 0 571 16070 0
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Collected Poems 
by Norman MacCaig.
Chatto, 456 pp., £18, September 1990, 0 7011 3713 4
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The Mail from Anywhere 
by Brad Leithauser.
Oxford, 55 pp., £5.95, September 1990, 0 19 282779 0
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An Elegy for the Galosherman: New and Selected Poems 
by Matt Simpson.
Bloodaxe, 128 pp., £6.95, October 1990, 1 85224 103 9
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... earlier poems. Sketches of relatives and friends, present and remembered, are the staple forms of Matt Simpson’s An Elegy for the Galosherman: New and Selected Poems. Starting in the ‘bombed back-streets of Bootle’ (as the ‘biographical note’ calls them) where Simpson grew up, and moving briefly to Cambridge ...

Wacky

Christopher Tayler: Multofiction, 8 January 2004

Set This House in Order 
by Matt Ruff.
Flamingo, 496 pp., £12, October 2003, 0 00 716423 8
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... reimagine the syndrome to their own specifications, but in his new novel, Set This House in Order, Matt Ruff has tried to make his story consistent with non-fiction accounts. His descriptions of rival alters in control of different body parts probably wouldn’t pass muster with the International Society for the Study of Dissociation, but he has been largely ...

Join the club

Richard Hornsey: A new queer history of London, 7 September 2006

Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis 1918-57 
by Matt Houlbrook.
Chicago, 384 pp., £20.50, September 2005, 0 226 35460 1
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... only eight months before. Having arrived in the same year as the Civil Partnership Register, Matt Houlbrook’s impressive study of queer life in London between 1918 and 1957 does much to revise our understanding of homosexuality in that period. Coverage of recent changes in the law has tended to portray the 20th century as a time of darkness, in which ...

All hail, sage lady

Andrew O’Hagan: ‘The Crown’, 15 December 2016

... in the home he had chosen for them, and his frustrations grew dark. Recently, when the actor Matt Smith was introduced to Prince William and the prince was told Smith would soon be playing his grandfather in an epic Netflix series, The Crown, William offered only one word. ‘Legend,’ he said, as if they were talking about Dolly Parton. And that is the ...

No Dancing, No Music

Alex Clark: New Puritans, 2 November 2000

All Hail the New Puritans 
edited by Nicholas Blincoe and Matt Thorne.
Fourth Estate, 204 pp., £10, September 2000, 1 84115 345 1
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... of the more accomplished contemporary short-story writers – Lorrie Moore, say, or Helen Simpson – for this wilful impoverishment might prove too much for many readers. In general, All Hail the New Puritans has an extraordinary lack of humour or lightness of touch. An exception is Blincoe’s own story, ‘Short Guide to Game Theory’, a witty and ...

Constable’s Plenty

John Barrell, 15 August 1991

Constable 
by Leslie Parris and Ian Fleming-Williams.
Tate Gallery, 544 pp., £45, June 1991, 1 85437 071 5
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Romatic Ecology: Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition 
by Jonathan Bate.
Routledge, 131 pp., £8.99, May 1991, 0 415 06116 4
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... to argue with his opponents (Marilyn Butler, Marjorie Levinson, Alan Liu, Jerome McGann, David Simpson), and if he does it is often a sign that he has missed the point. When Liu claims that the category ‘nature’ is always constituted in terms of a politics, Bate replies that the limitation of this view is that ‘not even the most ardent advocate’ of ...

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