Episode 5: Steven Matthews

This is the fifth in our Oxford Poets podcast series, which features interviews and discussions with local writers. The next episode, in which Niall Munro interviews Claire Trévien, will appear later this month.

The theme music for the podcast, entitled Leaving for the North, was composed by Aneurin Rees, and played by Aneurin Rees (guitar) and Rosalie Tribe (violin).

Steven Matthews was born and brought up in Colchester, Essex. Various of his poems have been published in magazines and journals including Stand, Versus, Kunapipi, Oxford Magazine, Poetry and Audience, and Moving Worlds.

He has been a regular reviewer for Poetry Review, and Poetry Editor for Dublin Quarterly Magazine. He is Professor of Modernism and Beckett Studies at the University of Reading, and the former Director of the Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre. Skying, published by Waterloo Press, is his first book of poetry.

Waterloo Press offers readers an eclectic list of the most inventive and stimulating poetry from the UK and abroad. Beautifully designed books range from lost modernist classics to translations of senior international poets and vibrant collections by the best young British poets around.

Waterloo Press brings radical and marginalised voices to the fore, mirroring the aesthetic value of their work in outstanding book design, including dust jackets; large font; and original artwork for the covers. With its diverse and growing list, Waterloo Press breaks down the borders between contemporary schools of poetry, to forge a new poetics based on respect for craft, innovation and the challenge of real communication. 

Two sonnets from Essex Coastal


Sun-stunned summer; crab-lining off the groyne,

our caught pale primitives struggling one over

the other, in the cheap plastic bucket.

Clacton pier is a thick line in the distance

along the shore, its roll-the-penny lanes

revolving unattended until dusk.

Now radios blare, ruddy-skinned life is spilt

outdoors from bright beach huts, and sprawled on the prom.

Homemade canvas windbreaks beam their colours

on the sands; children race each other

down to the still forbidding churn of the sea.

Our lives will never get beyond these escapes,

the yearly yearning for the erotics

of shore and tides, clamber for air and light.


There is something here that will not bear telling.

As autumn sun dies into deep pools left

by the tide’s withdrawing, stepping stones,

precarious in the mud, stand out starker.

A foundered houseboat, keel mussel-shrouded,

sighs and groans from the waters trapped within.

From Mersea Island, tankers loom, ploughing

a horizon drawn in sky along the earth’s

curvature. These evenings, when a sun lowers

over the expanse of wave-rippled beaches,

open onto voids of beauty and content.

Plovers dart at movements by the sea’s edge.

Those stepping stones join nowhere to nowhere.

There is something here that will not bear telling.

by Steven Matthews