Plymouth writer’s new book has incredibly long title

You might think The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is a long title for a book – but Plymouth writer Matt Thomas has got that beat hands down. The American-born artist and writer’s debut full-length poetry collection revels in the splendid title of What I Thought About While I Watched You Shorten the Handles of Two Canvas Shopping Bags Thereby Making them Easier to Carry.

Matt might have beaten Mark Haddon’s novel in title length, but he is a long way off the world record, which stands at a mind-boggling 3,777 words and goes to Indian academic Vityala Yethindra’s non-fiction work which begins The Historical Development of the Heart… and goes on, and on, from there even though the book only had 80 pages. Matt’s book, published by Plymouth’s Shoals of Starlings Press, is a much more zippy read, and he will read from it at its launch at the next meeting of the Plymouth Language Club on Friday, May 6, at Rockets and Rascals on the Barbican. Anyone can attend but please arrive by 7pm for a prompt 7.30pm start.

Matt, originally from Seattle but now residing in Stoke, has lived in the UK for 22 years and said he is “very left-handed”. He self-published his first poetry and collage ‘zine, Fractured Free Verse, in 1985. Since then, he has unleashed numerous pamphlets, ‘zines, booklets, comics and “what can only be described as ephemera on an unsuspecting and largely unaffected world”.

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He said: “In Seattle, many years ago, I performed in a weekly poetry slam in a cocktail bar, and on one occasion won enough money to buy a round of drinks.”

More recently he has read in Plymouth with WonderZoo, Deadbeat Writers and Cross Country writers. As a visual artist, Matt’s work has been exhibited throughout the South West, Seattle, Singapore, and in various mail-art projects worldwide. He is currently one of the directors of Royal Adelaide Art and Yoga CIC, in Plymouth.



The cover of Matt Thomas’ book What I Thought About While I Watched You Shorten the Handles of Two Canvas Shopping Bags Thereby Making them Easier to Carry, published by Plymouth’s Shoals of Starlings Press

Matt will be joined on an attractive Language Club bill by guest reader Naomi Foyle, a British-Canadian writer based in Brighton who is also the deputy editor of Waterloo Press. Her many poetry publications include The Night Pavilion (Waterloo) and Adamantine (Red Hen/Pighog Press). She is currently writing and producing ASTRA, a multimedia theatre adaptation of her eco-SF quartet The Gaia Chronicles, and is a reader in critical imaginative writing at the University of Chichester.

Also reading will be Plymouth poet Rosemarie Corlett, who teaches creative writing at the University of Plymouth, where she recently completed her PhD in poetry. Her poetry has been published in a variety of magazines including Iota, Poetry Wales and Finished Creatures, and her first full-length collection, Flightless Bird, is due out from Shearsman in the autumn.

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Norman Jope, a co-coordinator of Plymouth Language Club, will also be reading at the event. He has published six full-length collections of poetry, five in English and one in Hungarian translation, including The Book of Bells and Candles and Aphinar (Waterloo) and most recently The Rest of the World (Shearsman). He has also edited In the Presence of Sharks, an anthology of new poetry from Plymouth (Phlebas), and a book of critical essays on the work of the poet Richard Berengarten (Salt and Shearsman). He said: “On this occasion I will be reading a single extended sequence from The Rest of the World in response to recent events.”

As has become usual at recent Language Club events there will be music too, this time from well-known Plymouth singer-songwriter Rob C Force. A prominent figure on the city’s music scene for many years, he has performed throughout the UK and Europe and as far as Japan and has been at the centre of bands such as Sha-Gov, The Cohorts and C Force. He currently performs both as a solo artist and with his band Wireless.

Entry is by donation – a minimum of £5 is suggested, cash only – as Plymouth Language Club receives no public funding and “has no intention of applying for it”, said Norman, adding: “Donations are greatly appreciated”. A further event is scheduled to take place in early July.

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