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Matt Kirkham’s ‘Aged Fourteen My Grandfather Runs Away To Sea’: A Brief Review

Matt Kirkham / Aged Fourteen My Grandfather Runs Away To Sea

£4.50 / Templar / ISBN: 978-1-906285-81-4

Matt Kirkham’s pamphlet Aged Fourteen My Grandfather Runs Away To Sea comes as part of the Iota Shots. It is a very small pamphlet containing a fifteen page sequence, giving a powerful little package of poetry. This reminds me of an interview with Frank Skinner in The Independent this week, in which he says:

I read quite a lot of poetry. I’m surprised more people don’t, as it’s suited to the modern world, because it tends to be short, condensed and intense, as opposed to long, rambling novels.

It’s a good point. I think much of the consumption of my generation is done in shots.

Aged Fourteen My Grandfather Runs Away To Sea is separated into fifteen poems, each of fourteen lines, with each poem’s first line echoing the last line of the one preceding it. The final poem goes beyond this, coming as a quilt of all of these repeated refrains. Within the sequence there is an unremitting repetition & recurrence of characters & images, & so this all contributes to the sense of ‘passing on’, a theme which is central to the pamphlet. Kirkham explores travel, stories/memories, family history & the chance in relationships (over generations), & so the reticular structure of the sequence — requiring it to be read repeatedly to trace all of the forwards & backwards connections — matches its content strongly. Kirkham also has a good knack for the strong image, such as “horizons flattened under tankers”, & for the associations possible between images. Aged Fourteen My Grandfather Runs Away To Sea moves like this very quickly, & is a dizzying read for it. (This can’t really be shown through quotations, as the repetitions accumulate across the whole sequence.) It is a very impressive work with a peculiar intensity, & gives the pleasant feeling of there being more to explore on each reading. It’s well worth the price, & recommended by Frank Skinner.


Matt Kirkham’s page on the Queen’s University Belfast website, with readings by the poet.