"La vraie vie est ailleurs," said Rimbaud, before he went elsewhere.

Sometimes, poets admit as much, as in "Hutt River Province," from Matt Merritt's Troy Town:

So I'll secede from the stutter
. . . . . . . . . and slide
of everyday. Make myself
one of those outback kingdoms
come of the refusal to accept the inevitable.

Some sad station of low scrub and stubbornness
way beyond the black swamp,
rough grazing by a stagnant bend of a backwater
that's all ox-bows and dead-ends,

with a sun fit to sear shadows
into the backs of my eyes.

It's not as simple as that, of course, as the "stutter / and slide / of the everyday" is at least in motion, while the landscape of this imagined, desired "elsewhere" is completely static.

This is not a representative poem from Troy Town, except insofar as it marks the way Merritt likes to shape his poems: with at least one sharp turn somewhere, and often two or three. These turns are sometimes logical (working with "but" and "or") but often temporal (marked by "then" and "until"). Such poems work best when the shifts do not coincide with the stanza breaks, as in "Paradise Tanager":

Suddenly it's there, presumably having roosted
somewhere about my person all the way home.
Certainly the first in these parts, a whole hemisphere

out of place, but seemingly none the worse
for its long confinement. No song, but no need
to announce its arrival to us anyway, in terms other

than a palette of primary colour daubed along
the bare branch. Already we can't think
how we lived without it, facing down the weather,

getting stuck into the DIY, or organizing
a full social life, yet it draws just a passing glance
from the blackbird wrestling a worm out of the lawn,

or the tabby dozing in the border. No matter.
The moment it alights again on the edge
of the kitchen roof, we decide it has an answer

for everything, even the questions we're not yet asking.
Like how will it cope with the British winter?
The sparrowhawk? The traffic? The council tax?

And will it ever sleep? And when? And where?

The movement of the lines and the stanzas and the sentences provide three different rhythms through the poem, and the surprise of a South American bird in Britain generates the surprising movement of the images and the shifting focuses of the poem.

There are a lot of bird poems in the book, as Merritt is a birdwatcher (with 87 posts about birds on his blog!), and that must have finally led him to write "Another Bloody Poem about Birds":

You ask me why
there are so many
birds in these poems

as if you don't know

but you're right, of course.
It isn't fair to ask them
to keep bearing this burden
when all they really want
is to sing, fly, or eat.
Most likely all three.

All we want
just now is a life
free from metaphor and simile

but still you insist on listening to me
with your head cocked
very slightly to one side.

This seems to me to provide an insight into why we use figurative language at all, and beyond that, into why we use it all the time!

I was going to type in the wondrously funny "Sex after 36," too, but I just decided not to. If you want that bit of bawdy comedy, you have to buy the book, and with it you'll get many more poems with birds in them, as well as sharply outlined scenes of life here (England, for Merritt) and elsewhere that highlight the play of the desire to be in both places at once.
Andrew J Shields

A quality production, this one, from Arrowhead – and rare to find a hardback book of poetry these days outside the ‘mainstream’. Matt Merritt’s work has appeared in Iota several times. He is an organised, calm poet with an assured touch. He has the ability to make a poem live and breathe – and the rarer sense of when to stop.
His day job is with Bird Watching magazine, and his poetry lends itself to the outdoors, yes with birds, but also with experiences that become almost mystical, as with Holiday, 1939, when the narrator watches a German submarine surface in a sea loch, and in an example of one of his quality ‘endings’, dive again... “it slipped beneath, below / back out into the narrows, / a legendary beast, unknown to God.”
Merritt’s 12-line High Lonesome is set against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Expecting a romantic final barrier which the old American pioneers experienced and conquered on the drop into the promised land of California, the poet’s initial reaction is disappointment. The vision is “huger and messier” than anticipated, but as with so many experiences the key is to wait for “the pine-bristled valleys, / the cobalt lakes. For coffee by the campfire…”
As one might expect, Merritt is an astute observer of nature, as in Hares In December. It’s a neatly written, imagist poem that is given a wider perspective by its conclusion: “Nothing / is moving out there / but the possibility.” I like Merritt’s work, and get the feeling there is a lot more to come from him. He is not yet 40.
Bob Mee, Iota 82

If you’re asking me, and I'd understand entirely if you preferred not to, poetry is a bit like lemon meringue - I'm aware of it, I know my missus likes it, but, given the choice, I'm always happy to give it a miss.
My life is largely untroubled by poetry. And then I read something like Troy Town - a collection of poems by former Mercury journalist Matt Merritt - and I think that maybe, not for the first time, I've got it all wrong.
I read this collection of Merritt's poems during the Easter holidays, coming back to them time after time between bouts of unpleasant DIY and finding, on each occasion, something new in his unpretentious but elegant work.
Sometimes it was something about the poem, occasionally something about its author, every now and again, something about me.
Merritt's poems are warm and wise, sad but true, insightful and eloquent and unfailingly original, even when he's dealing with the minutiae of routine, everyday life.
There are, it has to be said, a lot of poems about birds - a point he admits himself during the cleverly titled Another Bloody Poem About Birds - but there is much to enjoy here and Merritt, winner of the 2004 Plough Poetry Prize and runner-up in the BBC's Wildlife Poet of the Year, should start clearing a bigger space on his mantlepiece. He's good. 
Lee Marlow, Leicester Mercury 

Matt Merritt has published two books of poetry, a pamphlet titled Making the Most of the Light (Happenstance) in 2005, followed by Troy Town (Arrowhead) in 2008, his debut full collection. Accessible yet complex, Merritt is one of the few poets on the U.K. scene to carry off this juggling act. His poems invite the reader in, before generating layers of nuance.
Making the Most of the Light goes way beyond most first pamphlets. Not just a “Best Of…”, it develops a number of themes, often via the use of subtle juxtaposition, as in the collection’s positive title alongside its dedication (For Rebecca Merritt 1968-2004). At the same time, Merritt also shows himself to be adept at great set pieces (Sweet Nothings), excellently executed extended metaphors (Comeback) and the undervalued English art of self-deprecation (Familiar). This pamphlet shows a poet in exciting evolution, capable of striking chords without resorting to facile gestures.
Troy Town displays a number of key differences. Unlike many other poets, Merritt didn’t draw on poems from the previous pamphlet when drawing up his debut full collection. Instead, the reader is offered a clean slate and a book that’s symphonic. In other words, this is a collection which compresses and reflects a couple of years in the poet’s life. Pieces bounce off each other, depend on their neighbours and are strengthened by their strategic positioning in the book. Less immediate than Making the Most of the Light, Troy Town does still invite the reader in, but Merritt’s capacity for creating nuance is building: we have to work just a little more to suss out where we are, what’s going on and what might hit us on the next line. Of course, his skill is always teasing away in the background, less blatant than before, but reminding us that our efforts will be rewarded.
Matt Merritt is a poet to watch over the coming years. His voice, already striking, will surely mature even further. I just hope it reaches the wider readership that it deserves.
Matthew Stewart, Rogue Strands

Matt Merritt’s excellent pamphlet collection, Making the Most of the Light, was published in 2005 by HappenStance and it’s no surprise that he has gone on to produce a debut full collection this year, Troy Town, published by Arrowhead.
Birds flit through this collection, literally and metaphorically, as he explores the intricacy of love’s beginnings, middles and endings, the tension between desire and routine, the gift of unexpected happiness and a often latent sense of un-ease, the vitality of the present moment coupled with an awareness of not being in control of it.
The writing is very strong. There’s rarely a superfluous word or out-of-place phrase. In The Meeting Place, Matt Merritt quotes Tomas Tranströmer’s “…within us, balanced like a gyroscope, is joy,” and his poems are successful through achieving a difficult balance; what they say is never imposed on their subject matter but is sourced naturally from it. When I say “naturally”, I mean the poems give that impression even as they take you a little beyond what you thought you always knew.
The Meeting Place is a good example of Matt Merritt’s strengths. It begins, “Nothing leads up to it.” Nothing remarkable is going on. “Traffic lights maintain their sequence.” The world continues as it always has. And yet:

…she is there
at the junction of all things, and at once

the better part of you is persuaded
out of balance. Moments fray to a fine thread.
The past is startled into a sudden eloquence.
Nothing need follow.

That “persuaded/ out of balance” is indeed in perfect balance with Transtromer’s line – its contradiction and fulfilment at the same time. The joy of the balance couldn’t come unless out of balance. The final line is also brilliantly double-edged because, of course, the high point of meeting can’t promise anything other than a longing for something to follow, but isolating the moment gives a different, tension-filled perspective. That kind of complexity written with compressed (and seemingly effortless) precision makes this collection one not to miss out on reading. Other pieces that also achieve this to particular effect include Winter Saturday, Attenborough and Poem, which maintains its tension and keeps the reader guessing right up to (and, to some extent, beyond) the final line.
Knots is a bird poem, but a metaphorical one, beginning with the enticing “Only now does it occur to me/ as something unseen, maybe a dog in the dunes/ beyond (although in the poem it will be a peregrine,/ probably).” The poem works through the well observed descriptions of the knots and the transformative vitality of its metaphors. The knots (wading birds) begin as spirals of smoke;

first black as a cloud of summer gnats, now silvered
as the foil they used to fool radar

and then stand “Calidris canutus” 

king’s men all, commanding the waves to turn back
or else making a point completely lost on history.

The grand claim of the first of those lines, tempered humorously by the second, is characteristic of Matt Merritt’s writing. He refuses to reach beyond the capability of his images, but he isn’t afraid to extend their possibilities, revealing those possibilities as inherent all along. The poem closes:

And they’re airborne again,
only now they’re more
                                  a shimmering shoal of sand eels,
dissipated in a second, disappearing momentarily,
a stubborn collective thought of explosive energy.

There were a few ‘passengers’ in the collection, but not many, and even those poems weren’t bad, just not as good. On two or three occasions, I noticed the presence of colloquialisms, as if from an anxiety to fit the lyricism into spoken speech patterns. In First Draft, “You’ll go to the window, your eye caught by a seagull, say” and in Loons, “you catch them/ in the corner of an eye, perhaps.” Both of these are good poems, but the “say” and “perhaps” broke the spell and invited comparisons to certain popular poets from the north of England. But these are small complaints.
It’s hard to get attention for individual poetry collections if you’re not on a major press (and sometimes even if you are). But I wouldn’t want to think that a collection like this one would go un-noticed. It’s much too good for that.
Rob Mackenzie, Surroundings

We tend to think of poetry as a dead artform these days. Since the sixties, our poetic heroes have mostly come from the annals of popular music. From the likes of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Lou Reed to the latest ‘genius de jour’ Alex Turner and the more dubious talents of Pete Doherty.
However, it was poets who were the original bad boy libertines, drunks, opium addicts, incestuous fornicators and devil worshippers, long before rock and roll ever existed. In fact, it would be hard to think of anyone more rock and roll than Shelley or Baudelaire, or indeed Arthur Rimbaud, whose talents and scandalous behaviour peaked in his late teens/early twenties, at which point he gave it all up and went to be a colonial trader in Africa.
Bob Dylan even allegedly changed his name from Zimmerman to Dylan in homage to the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.
In literary terms, we tend to eschew poetry in favour of the novel, for reasons of narrative, plot and character development, and more importantly, clarity of meaning.
Poetry is a fairly abstract artform, which requires the time and patience not normally commensurate with the time taken to read the actual poem. We must feel our way through a poem, often stumbling blindly at first. It requires our senses to be ruthlessly honed to its ambiguous meanings and difficult exits. Poetry perhaps stands alone among the arts, in its unique ability to convey sadness and loss, the elegiac and the memento-mori. A good poem is a long-savoured delight, and the aftertaste last deep into the night.
Troy Town is Leicestershire poet Matt Merritt’s first book of published poetry, though a previous pamphlet entitled Making The Most Of The Light was published in 2005.
Merritt mixes the ordinary with the extraordinary, the everyday with the out-of-place. The juxtaposition of the rural and the urban are held, not so much as counterpoints to one another, but more to subtly merge and illuminate one another.
The poems of Troy Town are trapped in the half-light, at the points of dusk and dawn. Merritt is able to convey the deepest of sentiments with the quietest of words. There is no hysteria or madness and these are not maudlin poems filled with self-pity. Merritt has a nose for the sublime and opaque nature of the pure moment. He captures those moments in between when life is lived. That space where time and nature, memory and loss, hang suspended and the world offers itself up to us as though for the first time – for the last time. The poems are on the cusp of a netherworld of everything being said and nothing being said, as in The morning of the funeral, when he muses “…A good day for drying / so you’ll peg out early morning / and get stuck into / a few things round the house / before you need to start for the crem…”
Merritt even courageously examines the nature of the poet himself in The Other Kind, where he states: “There are two types of poet…” The first type, “…who wonder if nostalgia / is everything it once was, remember / when and where that thought first occurred / and won’t let you forget it…”; Merritt is the other kind, “who can’t imagine the intruder who / arrives once a flood to drink their wine, / warm their bed and leave only the lightest / trace all over the notebook and laptop”
Like a wooden horse, Merritt’s poetry surreptitiously creeps into the subconscious to unleash its more difficult conclusions on the human condition.
Baudelaire stated that the flaneur was a botanist of the streets. For me, the poet Matt Merritt is a great chronicler of the undergrowth.
Ewen McDonald, The Leicestershire Magazine