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Drop in by Matthew M.C. Smith

I’m particularly excited to welcome Matthew M.C. Smith to drop in today to talk about a poem from his stunning collection, The Keeper of Aeons, as I have long been an admirer of his poetry.

My poem Paviland: Ice and Fire was published by The Lonely Crowd in 2022. I was really pleased to be included in their 5-year edition as I feel that this press has a record of publishing excellent writing, under the editorship of John Lavin.

The poem takes the reader on a dizzying, intense, time-travelling journey to a cave on the Gower peninsula where a palaeolithic hunter is buried – popularly known as the ‘Red Lady’ of Paviland – but was, in fact, a male, Ice Age hunter. There’s an aspect of shamanism and ancient ritual in this poem set 34,000 years ago at a primitive, solemn scene of burial, where a man was buried in red ochre dust with a mammoth skull, shell necklaces, decorative or sacred ivory wands and bone harpoons. The remains are now at Oxford University Natural History Museum because, at the time (1823), Wales did not have a museum.

The poem is also in my second collection, The Keeper of Aeons (published by Broken Spine Arts) The Keeper of Aeons – Matthew M. C. Smith – The Broken Spine; this collection is full of deep time poems, set in bone caves and ancient landscapes in Wales and takes us far into the future and the cosmos. The book is a hell of a ride and highly surreal at points. It was great to work with Alan Parry (writer and editor), who was light-touch in his editing for the most part but picky enough to make the poems and prose a little sharper in places. I’m also grateful that Alan nominated for me a ‘Best of the Net’ and Pushcart prizes last year.

The poem was included in my campaign pamphlet Paviland: Ice and Fire, available on Amazon Paviland Ice and Fire: Smith, Matthew M. C., Smith, Matthew M. C., Wainwright, Rebecca: 9798372691018: Books, which promoted the restitution of the bones and adornments back to Swansea.

Paviland Cave is a sacred site and an incredible place to visit. The cave is cut off – not that accessible – and the poem is for those people who would struggle to get there and experience the spirit of place. There are no signs of modernity and you feel that you can plunge back deep into the past. The atmosphere is immense and there is something touching and utterly poignant when thinking about that cave burial, done with such care in a harsh, icy environment.

We cannot, of course, place the hunter back in the cave, as suggested the poem. Particles of the remains are still at that lonely place but the relics should be housed in Swansea so that local people know more about our Ice Age landscape and those people who must have struggled to survive. Gower has amazing deep time locations and discoveries and we need to focus on this, as well as the industrial heritage that is so prominent in Wales. Bring the bones back!

Thank you Nigel for this opportunity.

Next week read my review of this exceptional collection.


Nigel Kent’s collection of ekphrastic poems, Unmuted (Hedgehog Poetry Press), is inspired by a gallery of famous works by artists from the present and the past. Each artwork acts as a frame in a storyboard which he unfreezes and unmutes to reveal the narrative he imagines lies behind it. Even for those who have no interest in art these direct, accessible and moving poems will stand alone and promise to engage with issues that truly matter.

Kent’s poetry is succint, never bloated and always delivered with a poignant and very human point of view.” Priss Bliss, Dreich Broad No. 3


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