Throughout my life, I have been drawn to poetry. It’s something I have enjoyed both writing and reading at various times. During a period of crisis, poetry can heal the soul. And in times of joy it can perfectly express those feelings we find so difficult to identify and label. A Familiar Stranger by Matthew Williams takes us on a journey of self-discovery and of self-reflection. It’s an exploration of love both won and lost, and the search for understanding of the world and one’s self.
I’d like to introduce you, my readers to Matthew Williams. Matthew is an author and speaker who expresses his emotions through incredibly emotive poetry.
Matthew stands out as a poet because he is so relatable. He’s truly one of us! Matthew has undergone so many experiences many of us have faced.
The author is a divorcee, a father, trying to understand the world around him and navigate his way through love and life. Matthew is very open about depression, having suffered from this horrible mental health illness for much of his adult life.
In fighting back, Matthew tries to help and inspire others who have undergone similar issues. Our author is not only an accomplished writer and speaker but also a champion for the Time to Change Campaign whose goal is to improve attitudes towards mental health issues.
You can find out more about Matthew and his work by visiting his blog.
A Familiar Stranger
Matthew was kind enough to send me a copy of his latest collection of poems entitled A Familiar Stranger (available on Amazon). The title itself is incredibly evocative – is the author referring to himself? Or is the familiar stranger someone else?
The material is arranged into 4 chapters – Living, Loving, Falling and Rising. The 4 chapters take us on a journey with the poet as he experiences these various emotions.
Within the chapter Living, Matthew explores the modern world. I found the author’s take on social media and its implications on our way of life incredibly poignant. One of my favourite poems in this chapter is That’s Living Online. This poem really made me consider just how mind-numbing social media and scrolling online can really be. With lines, such as
a trade in electro currency,
of comments, likes and sharesMatthew Williams – That’s Living Online
One cannot help but consider just how much social media has taken over modern life.
A poem that really stood out for me in the chapter Loving was ‘How Could You’.
never thought you would do that
couldn’t be the person I knew
the one I gave my heart to
who was that if it wasn’t youMatthew Williams – How Could You
Many of us have been in a situation similar to the poet’s experience. We think we know someone but how little we actually knew them!
Matthew also explores love in the modern world through a number of poems. A particularly interesting one for me was F**k Tinder. I have been with my husband for 14 years, we met in a nightclub. This is no longer the conventional way (so I’m told). (In fact, I only discovered recently what exactly Tinder is). I have no idea how I would handle the new ways of meeting people and dating were I to start again. We join the author in trying to make sense of the online dating scene. Some of the poems contemplate finding love after a long relationship, which is always a difficult and emotional experience!
The poems in the chapter Falling deal with issues surrounding depression and they are incredibly raw and powerful. The author really lets the words flow from mind to page and completely releases his emotions. The reader can tell that the process of writing the poetry in this section is an incredibly therapeutic act for the author. Stumbling Through Fog and Heaven and Hell reminded me of a place I can recall all too well. The words in these poems actually made me consider how far I have come in my own battle with mental health issues.
I found the chapter Rising incredibly emotional. The material in these pages demonstrates the increasing clarity of the author’s mind in making sense of his own depression. After ‘stumbling through the fog’ I rejoiced in the sense that the author was beginning to see the light ahead. And there is also an important realisation that we don’t have to have a perfect sense of oneself and the world around us to be OK.
I’ll never have all the answers
never have it all sussed out
I’ll keep walking along my own path
Just trying to figure this s**t outMatthew Williams – Just Trying to Figure this S**t Out
Why I Would Recommend A Familiar Stranger
An honest review doesn’t have to say anything negative. And this is an honest review with nothing negative to say! I honestly really enjoyed reading Matthew’s work and joining him on his journey. His work is what I would call ‘edgy’ – his style, the way the work is presented it offers something fresh and modern.
Some people have a problem with swear words in literature, I personally don’t have a problem with it. Matthew uses swear words in some of his poems, but swearing is simply part of the English language (I only use expletives because my mother and my children read my blog!) The language used is extremely evocative and powerful. The material is effectively arranged into chapters which follow the author on his emotional journey.
We don’t need to undertake extensive research to figure out the meaning of his words. They’re raw and real. Simply by reading Matthew’s work, you can imagine exactly how he was feeling at the time and what drove and inspired him to write.
I can highly recommend A Familiar Stranger and I look forward to reading more of Matthew’s work in the future!
* are my own expletives and not the author’s.
This is a collaborative post, however, as always, all opinions are my own.
Explore my Reading the Classics category for some more book recommendations.