Growing up, poetry was something I wrote in secret. There were no poets or artists where I lived although tradesmen worked in wood and steel and stone, making and mending. My father’s skill as a joiner has left a deep impression on me. With a few bits of wood he can make miraculous, wonderful things. He can find the shape of the grain and for me carpentry and poetry have always felt intimately entwined.
In 1986 I read ’45 Mercy Street’ by the US poet Anne Sexton. The moment changed my life. Forever. At that point I’d not read much poetry, if any, by women. I was nineteen years of age and Sexton’s voice made me realise, for the very first time, that I could be a poet. About three years after the Sexton discovery I lost a very close friend to cancer. She died quickly, and all of a sudden I was exposed to my own mortality at, I think, way too young an age. After her funeral I remember sitting thinking: if this had been me, what would I regret not doing? I knew the answer before I asked the question. And this is why I became a poet.
I am a poet because words, their sounds in the mouth and on the air, their form and aesthetic on the page still seem like the most ordinary kind of magic. Poetry has never felt complicated to me. When words fail me, I turn to poetry; either the reading or the writing of it. Because it seems to me that poetry, perhaps more than any art form, can express the inexpressible. Poetry speaks from the heart to the heart and it is vital for a life well-lived.
LISA MATTHEWS is a poet, writing researcher and collaborative artist based on the northeast coast of England. She has published a chapbook, 14, and three poetry collections, her most recent being The Eternally Packed Suitcase (Vane Women, 2015). She has a book of prose poems – working title Callisto – due out at the end of 2016, published by Red Squirrel Press. In spring 2016 she co-authored a poetic-visual essay Two Rivers & the Sea inspired by Rachel Carson and the Northumberland coast. You can view Lisa’s work at lisamatthewswriter.dunked.com