Introducing our contributors: Matt Merritt

Matt Merritt is a writer and poet with a particular interest in birdwatching. He has four poetry collections, the most recent of which is The Elephant Tests, published by Nine Arches Press. Merritt has written a collection of poems as an afterword to one of our forthcoming science fiction books. We’re delighted to introduce him now and to find out a little more about him...

You edit Bird Watching magazine. Can you see any parallels between birding and writing poetry?
Definitely. Both require a lot of patience, but I think they’re also similar in that, with both, you have to get into a routine of actually doing them to give a chance for the moments of inspiration or illumination to strike. I’m a big believer that, to be a writer of any sort, you first need to write (even if most of it ends up getting rehashed or scrapped) – it’s no use just waiting for poems to arrive. The same goes for birds – some of the most memorable birding experiences are down to a certain amount of luck, to being in the right place at the right time, but for that to happen you need to be willing to put in the days of routine watching too. 

What inspires you in your creative work?
Well, the natural world, certainly, but particularly humans’ relationship with it, and the areas where the two cross over. I like an unspoiled, wild landscape as much as the next person, but I’m also really interested in how nature makes use of each and every opportunity that we give it – a lot of the best places to watch wildlife, in Britain at least, are former industrial sites that have, either deliberately or by chance, been allowed to ‘rewild’.

What are the main themes that you like to explore in your writing?
The need to arrive at a more sustainable relationship with the environment is certainly one. Another, I think, is to do with knowledge – how far is it possible to be honest about our situation without despairing? Is a little bit of wilful ignorance about some things necessary?

Are you a science fiction fan? If so, what’s your favourite science fiction book or film?
I suppose The War of the Worlds would be my favourite sci-fi book, although Ray Bradbury would certainly be my favourite sci-fi author. I’m not very keen on the way fiction is put into genres, though - Bradbury’s a great example of a writer who’s not always given the credit he deserves because he’s not seen as a ‘literary’ writer, whatever that means. I also have a guilty liking for HP Lovecraft, and I think most of his work is more sci-fi than horror, really. Favourite sci-fi film? Probably Westworld.

Aliens or robots?
Aliens, definitely. Preferably genuinely alien ones, rather than humanoids with pointy ears, or whatever.

You time travel 100 years into the future. What’s it like?
Not good. I’m naturally an optimist, and I’d like to think that human ingenuity and scientific advances will have solved many of the problems we face now, but I can’t help thinking it’ll be a world that’s lost a great many of the species that we take for granted now.

If you were an emoji, which one would you be? Nick would be ‘Information Desk Person’ and Ella would be ‘Nail Polish’.

I’m not sure, but I like the look of ‘Octopus’. Is it an octopus, or great Cthulhu himself?

What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve been commissioned to write what’s described as a birding memoir, so that’s taking up most of my writing time, but I'm slowly working on my next poetry collection, too, as well as a chapbook of poems about the Midlands Revolt of 1607.

To find out more about Matt, check out Bird Watching magazine, which he edits, and read more of his writing over on his blog, Polyolbion.