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Woodworm is a seductive and hazardous odyssey into the mind of a poet…

Woodworm is a seductive and hazardous odyssey into the mind of a poetic alchemist capable of transmuting the mundane and even the squalid into something shining and memorable. How does Matt Duggan accomplish this? Through his own philosopher’s stone, an arsenal of unique words and phrases enabling us to see the world though his lapidary prism. In the process we become, like our artificer, “that watchful Kingfisher puncturing surface – a slewed flicker of blue.”

On every page we share in the raw emotions of a living, growing human organism whose inner nature rails against insensitivity and the rapacious attitude of human beings towards one another. Lamentations and the gnashing of teeth are audible when it comes to those unaware of or indifferent towards their own coarsening. Lingering at the bar among erstwhile friends, “How empty is their cup that will never be filled.” But this neither stifles the bard’s indomitable spirit nor stills a voice that will be heard and remembered. Ruminations standing at a river’s edge: “Yesterday the walls had ears that listened to us/today our fingerprints leave a continued trace.” There’s a Dantesque sense of apartness coupled with purpose: “I’ll sleep with the bones of isolation…a self-exiled alienation.”

Matt Duggan’s kaleidoscopic mind takes him and us out into uncharted waters. “Swimming so far from the crowd to stronger waves that guide me back to the shore - / I confess all my sins to a theatre without any faces /where the only ears listening are the cracks in bathroom mirrors.” Duggan’s singular vision and voice offer us a mandate echoed in his title: “Always keep dreams so close/those enemies far from you/ Be the ship mast not the sails/where underneath the shipwreck/ the rooting wood reveals the worms that sleep/inside the last resting place on earth. Woodworm is a world within itself, but a magical world, only an arm’s reach away.

Barnes & Noble

John Maxwell O’Brien
Emeritus Professor (Queens College, CUNY)


Our absolute truth hangs
inside the hollow gut of a dying tree;
We hold the woodman’s heavy axe
in one hand – lung of the world in the other;
sharpening the blunt silver blade
squeezing the air for atmosphere
playing god for a brief moment
our claws hang on the last weakened thread.

— from “YGGDRASIL”

If for the snap of a finger you could play God, what would you do? What type of legacy would you want to leave in your wake? If you could reshape history, would you stay woodworm, or would you scrape, claw, stab, and squeeze your way to the top? In a world where truths are subjective, and history an ever-changing landscape, Woodworm (Hedgehog Press), Matt Duggan’s newest collection, implores us to look at society, and poke holes in the very foundation of its facade.
It’s not fearing “the cuts and breakage of the flight/fall / It’s what I can’t see beneath the surface / that has me suspended between two worlds.” It’s the erosion, the splintering, the woodworm decay that makes us uncomfortable for what we might see when we fall into the open space. Are we the decay or the new life? How can you tell? Does it matter?
In a world built on TV appearances, prepared statements, misguided syntax, and twitter-rants, Duggan wants us to reach for paradise – at least some semblance of paradise – even if “man-made paradise, now deranged and unhinged.”

Review of Woodworm by Glynn Young @TSP

Woodworm is the name given to the larvae of a fairly wide array of beetles. It’s also the name applied to a condition of wood where the larvae have had a meal. What looks like holes is more like entrances to small caves, carved into the wood as the larvae eat their way forward. But the title of a poetry collection? I saw the name of British poet Matt Duggan’s latest poetry collection, Woodworm, however, and thought not of wood beetles but of Wormwood, the young student being tutored in The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Both thoughts might be relevant, however. Duggan writes about the individual and collective flaws that, sometimes slowly and sometimes quickly, eat their way through ourselves and our culture. And, like Lewis’s Wormwood, in these 60 poems we are being taught not how to promote and capitalize upon the flaws, but more to be aware of the havoc the worms of our culture are creating.
Duggan has written dystopian poems before; an entire collection is entitled Dystopia 38.10. The poems of Woodworm are not about dystopian themes. It’s almost as if they are the precursors to Dystopia 38.10. The 60 poems are evenly divided into two sections. Part One is entitled “The Pursuit for Truth in a Future We Didn’t Expect.” Part Two is “Questioning Sanity in a Post-Truth Age.” Those titles suggest political ideas, and overt political themes can be found in some of them. But the woodworms are gnawing at more than the political; they are boring through the personal as well. Similar ideas run through all of the poems. Whether Duggan is writing about New York City, a kingfisher diving in the water, illness, or swimming, the woodworms are at work. The title poem, a prose poem, speaks of the “guarded secret of the murmuring worms,” and says, “We see the damage it’s done on the surface never see inside or beneath the carnage it unleashed.” The supports holding society together are being eaten away, and all we see is the surface damage. Underneath, it’s far worse.
Duggan was born in Bristol, England, in 1971 and lives there today. His poems have appeared in numerous online and print journals, including Indiana Voice Journal and Ink Sweat and Tears. He started and still hosts spoken word evening’s in Bristol.
His 1st full collection Dystopia 38.10 won the 2015 Erbacce prize for poetry. Wormwood doesn’t make for light reading, but then Duggan has never been one to shy away from the passions he feels and the warnings he’s compelled to give. It’s a voice we’d do well to heed.

An Exceptional Collection

Matt Duggan’s ‘Woodworm’ is the best collection of poetry I have read this year. Duggan is an exceptional writer with a unique voice who captures the uncomfortable realities and truths of life in contemporary society with compassion, humanity and wit. This is compelling read that challenges the reader to ‘Look at What We’ve Become’. If you buy only one poetry book this year, buy this one because you will want to return to it again and again.

Nigel Kent – Amazon Review

An Astounding collection of poems

In his collection 'Woodworm', Matt Duggan unveils the diseases of modern society with acerbic wit and detailed insight. His is a unique voice that conjures up bold, imaginative imagery and wondrous turns of phrase. I highly recommend purchasing this brilliant book.

Amazon Customer 

Best Poetry Collection 

Matt Duggan's stunning collection sings directly about our world to us, never letting us be complacent. He breaks the barriers of our mindscape with rich and provocative imagery, unusual and gripping metaphors and inviting lyrical language. Love and globalisation live side by side, subtly pointing to our uniqueness and at that the same time how we destroy it. I can honestly say that his powerful poems, like woodworm frantically burrowing inside, remain in my head to this day.

Maria Castro Dominguez 
Woodworm by Matt Duggan, Simply Sensational
Powerful, profoundly relevant and packing an enormous poetic punch. This is fearless writing for our troubled times.

Mick Yates

Woodworm (Deluxe Editions) (Paperback) (72 Pages)
Hedgehog Poetry Press

£12.00 (U.K.) £16.50 (U.S.)
£16.50 (EU & Rest of the World) 

(Includes Post & Packing)


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