Matt Simpson

Poet inspired by the city of Liverpool

Although Matt Simpson was never one of the Liverpool poets, the city is at the heart of nearly all his work.

In 1994 Simpson spent some months as writer-in-residence to Arts Tasmania.

Simpson was born in Bootle, on Merseyside. His father, a merchant seaman, was often away, and Simpson, an only child, found him an at once mysterious and threatening figure. A clever boy, Simpson left school after taking his O-levels, and gained a place to read English at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, where his first poems were published.

After graduating, he stayed on to work in an English-language school, meeting there the woman who would in 1961 become his wife, a German actor, Monika Weydert. The newly married Simpson now returned to Liverpool, and, although not a Catholic, was appointed to a teaching post at a Catholic college of further education. Here he began writing poetry for children.

Simpson had a wonderfully attentive ear, both for the rhythms of everyday speech and for music. He built up a considerable music library, from medieval chant through to Britten and beyond, and was responsive to good work of any kind, jazz and popular music. It was this quality of eager discrimination, coupled with an inability to avoid telling the truth, that his friends especially loved in him; and it explains why so many writers sought his advice, and why, after early retirement, he became an excellent critic.

Just before he was hospitalised he had a sudden surge of creativity, producing a moving elegy for his one-time student, Michael Murphy, and poems in which he addresses his own heart, apologising to it for not realising how “a chunk of you’d been dead for years … So it’s me now all cut-up”.

To say that the death of this dear, good man, and outstanding good poet, leaves all of us who knew him cut up, is far too weak an expression of our loss.

He is survived by Monika, and by their son, David, and daughter, Catherine.

Matthew William Simpson, poet, born 14 May 1936; died 8 June 2009.”

– John Lucas, The Guardian (extracts from)

“A special individual voice speaking from an individual place… a good hardness coming out of family values and physical working objects… a real special poet.”

W. S. Graham.

“Simpson’s poetry is a poetry of the active intelligence, not simply an outpouring of feeling. Indeed, it is usually intelligence, the capacity for self-criticism, which releases the feelings in the first place… a refreshingly accessible poet… and a very subtle one.”

David Gervais, Making Connections

“An artist at work meticulous in every line, savouring every syllable.”

Stephen Wade, Acumen

“Matt Simpson faces up to hard things with honesty and Pathos.”

Alan Maha, Critical Survey

Books by Shoestring Press:

Collected Poems

Hugging the Shore: Critical Essays

In Deep