The Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival happened the penultimate week in September. We went along on Saturday the 24th for “Unexpected Encounters” where 10 guest poets-in-residence showcased their work – among them, our very own Barefoot (multi)talent, Matt Windle.
Matt works full time across England as a spoken word poet to deliver workshops, performances & boxercise classes to schools, libraries, foster homes, young offenders, residential care homes and various other establishments whilst simultaneously fighting at a national level as a boxer.
It was the need to balance out the intense, muscle-shortening exercise of his professional boxing training that encouraged Matt to the mat. He finds the Hot Yoga as part of boxing training helps relieve tight muscles, keeping him supple and injury-free, as well as better control of his breathing and ability to focus his mind.
So while we’ve seen him sweaty, bloody and completely swaddled in thick blankets this one time (don’t ask), it was a first for us to witness the lyrical, sensitive side – proof that, as Matt says, “people can be as diverse and unique as they want to be”.
During his time as poet-in-residence at Mary Arden’s Farm, he produced 5 poems in a variety of forms – from acrostic to sonnet, and of course in his signature spoken-word style. Our favourite, “When Flowers Are Gone”, is filled with themes of transience, of expending absolute effort with no attachment to outcomes, of looking the inevitable end right in the eye, not challenging or resisting, but wholeheartedly embracing both life and death, as the greatest, sweetest triumph in the end. Reproduced here with the artist’s permission.
I wish to carve words that can be forever read,
As though they run through these veins of ours because blood is forever red
We were never meant to last
We were heaven sent to pass
We endeavoured in the fact
That we’ll be severed in the act of a Greek tragedy
And ‘the goal of all living organisms is death’
There was no better explanation as to why we’re here the last time I checked
So for now, I’ll take truth in what’s said
I’ll take youth from what’s dead
And I’ll make use from what sense I can fathom for what’s next
Or for what will be left
And whilst flowers on an engraved bench are heartily meant
I need to attempt to manage my own conception of ‘average’ with some kind of contempt
Redemption is an opportunity and all of us can try
Seek out hidden ventures and anyone can strive
I’d rather have unsuccessfully tried than fail to live and survive
I won’t achieve death-defying heights through life
So I wish to achieve it through work
Through my hurt
My bloodied face and ink-stained fingers until it yearns
Until it burns a signature of worth into a visitor of years
Birthing a scribble of rehearsed moments
Leave something that can be fossilized and frozen
Take this as my token for the time that I’ve spent
Fate isn’t broken it’s a rhyming event we’re part of its stanza
So do what you can to be breathtaking like asthma and make the most of what’s yours
Create opportunities from the closing of doors
As though you’re opposing the pause of a standstill
Don’t allow your materials to go to waste like a landfill
Be the blacksmith to your future with hammer and anvil
Vandalise the skies in new stars with your passing
Be infectious with your passion
Our purpose is to pass through this pit-stop planet to be refuelled and sent on
To establish where we went wrong
I believe that the long and unexpected mishaps, lead us down destined paths
Relieve us from mythic traps and weave us like basket grass
I have grasped that which I’m scared of losing, only to see it slip through the gaps
I’ve saw it fit true to cracks and stick loosely to facts
In fact, the truth has always been pliable
And if you rely on anything in this world; expect it to be unreliable
The desirable inner trust from oneself is a wonderful thing
Though you have to know what’s within
To counter throw sins with ink
And when the king is dead, “long live the king” are the echoes that ring true
So when I breathe my final breath, don’t cry for me
As this is what I was made to do.
Massive thanks to Matt, keep doing awesome things! Follow Matt Windle Poet on Facebook and @mattwindlepoet on Twitter and Instagram for upcoming fights, poetry events and more delightfully juxtaposed photos of Matt in his varied incarnations.