Interview with Matt Goodfellow – NPD Ambassador

National Poetry Day is nearly upon us and we've been speaking to some of the event's ambassadors to find out what this day means to them.

First up is internationally published poet and former primary school teacher, Matt Goodfellow. As well as publishing his own collections, Matt has been featured in magazines and anthologies worldwide.

Here, he tells us a little about his poetry and the impact it has had on his life...

How would you describe your poetry?

It might sound like a cliché, but I’d like to think that my poetry has something for everyone. I get bored reading only funny poems as I also want to be challenged and spoken to on a deeper, more thoughtful level. However, I love a good laugh and so I’d get bored if there weren’t any funny ones at all. Often, reading somebody else’s poems gives you a great snapshot of a cross-section of their brain – how they think and feel about the strange things that happen in life; what makes them laugh; what frightens them, makes them wonder – and this is what I try to achieve in my own writing. I think my most recent solo collection, ‘Chicken on the Roof’ (Otter Barry Books, 2018) and my forthcoming collection with Bloomsbury, ‘Bright Bursts of Colour’ (due out Feb 2020) do exactly this.

How did you get into writing?

Writing has always been the thing that I’m best at. Throughout school, I found it came naturally, and I was lucky enough to come from a mum and dad who held books and music in high regard so was always exposed to words and wordplay. I studied English all the way up to degree level but from about the age of 14, my main ambition was to be a rock star – I played the guitar, did the singing, and wrote loads of song lyrics in bands playing gigs all over the place. It took me until I was about 23 to finally come to terms with the fact that actually my (lack of) musical talent wasn’t my strength! So, needing a ‘proper job’, I put the guitar down and became a primary school teacher. Teaching takes up so much headspace that I forgot about writing for a couple of years, until my son, Will, who was about 2 at the time, told me he’d like to go down the toilet to ‘see where all the wee and poo goes.’ It made me laugh and I started writing a little poem for him – and just like that I was back into writing. That was about 12 years ago now and since then I’ve had loads of poems published around the world – as well as four books of poetry (with lots more in the pipeline!)  

What inspires your poetry?

Everything really. Stuff that I see happening around me. Things I hear. Things I imagine I see and hear. Things from my memory. Half-remembered things. Reading other people’s poems. Nature. Music.

You work a lot with young people through workshops – what does this involve?

I arrive at a school in the morning and show off for a bit during separate assemblies for KS1 and KS2. Hopefully by the time I get into the classrooms, I’ve already demonstrated how fun and accessible poetry can be. It’s my job then to continue to open the door to poetry for the teachers and children by starting to write together.

What was your life like growing up and how has this informed the work you do now?

I wasn’t a particularly happy child. My mum and dad were divorced by the time I was 18 months old and my sister and I lived between two houses, neither of which ever really felt like home. Both parents met new people who I found it difficult to get along with. We moved schools a few times as well so never really had a chance to form huge attachments with others. My mum died when I was 20.

Of course, it wasn’t all doom and gloom, not by any means, but I think I carry a certain sadness with me which is reflected in some of the things I write.

How will you be celebrating National Poetry Day?

I’ll be performing and writing poems with lots of children from different schools at Central Library in Manchester.

What are you working on now?

There are quite a few books in the pipeline. Aside from the stuff I’ve already mentioned, I’m putting the finishing touches to a KS1 book, a couple of picture-books – and I always have my eye on the next full collection!

Find out more about National Poetry Day here.

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