As seen on the radio
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Date: August 2007


'Poetry is the spine of what he does for a living.'


Suzanne Elvidge catches up with Matt Harvey, a regular voice on BBC Radio Four – Saturday Live, Off The Page, Word of Mouth, and A Good Read

To Matt Harvey, the act of writing poetry is about making something almost tangible, something you can keep, out of words.

He describes poetry as allowing the writer the widest opportunity of what can be done with words. Poetry is the spine of what he does for a living, so he also writes columns, teaches workshops, writes stories, performs poetry at conferences and presents documentaries.

He also writes for Radio 4, and is one of the select group of poets put under the enormous pressure of writing topical pieces for Saturday Live.

Depicting his poetry as ‘word carvings’, Matt writes for both the page and the stage, enjoying the combination of lines with substance, which also sound “great in the mouth”, and working at meaning on bother the surface and at lower levels.


He enjoys crafted forms, especially sonnets, but feels that the mastery of these has given him the skills and confidence to step in and out of forms and to write free verse.

He is inspired by poets such as John Hegley, Stevie Smith, Emily Dickinson, Ivor Cutler and ee cummings (sic), who he describes as someone who writes from his own consciousness with warmth and truth.

He started by self-publishing, with four pocket-sized books that he sold at performances, but ‘Parts’ was published by the Poetry Trust, in collaboration with the illustrator David Hughes.

The collection has sharp and funny poems about tea bags, Body Shop soap and curtains, full of word play. But really it’s about our quest to love and be loved. The drawings are spiky, sometimes kind, sometimes cruel, but always sharp.

Since becoming a father, Matt admits that he writes less, but enjoys the deadlines of Saturday Live to give him the confidence that all his writing muscles are still working.

He keeps notebooks with him at all times and scribbles down ideas, words and phrases. Though occasionally the poems arrive fully-formed, more often they are worked on over hours, days, even several months, and may be tweaked following performances.


He feels that poems never really have to be completely finished, and can always be changed.

Matt spent a number of years in a psychotherapeutic residential community, first as a resident and then as a member of staff.

He describes this period of discovery as intense, and full of both good and troubled times. This may have contributed to his playful and comedic approach to more serious issues.

He closed by saying, “You can take the man out of the psychotherapeutic residential community but you can’t take the psychotherapeutic residential community out of the man.”

Keep an eye out for Matt Harvey, both live and in written form, as a poet in residence, and even (next year) as the author of a children’s book called ‘Shopping with Dad’.

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