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The Garland King

by Matthew Hedley Stoppard

Working-class history meets modern anxiety in this wry, anarchic poetry collection.

Matthew Hedley Stoppard’s second collection attempts to create an uncanny space where traditional customs and modern anxieties mix. Here, we find the Garland King cannot shake the inherent sexism of our society; a mummer mismanages his depression after his child is diagnosed with cancer; and Morris Dancers melt in the midst of a climate emergency.

The poems celebrate the rituals of the working and labouring classes, who have had their culture eclipsed by organised religion and politics. The poet explores them by donning bells and decorated bonnets himself, in order to connect with Britain’s heritage and with other countries that have similar customs.

The author says: “If you’ve ever wondered why Morris Dancers look so happy, it’s because you're witnessing a person who is shedding every distraction in their life and only focusing on movements of music and movements of their body that have been carried through centuries. This is what I felt the first time I danced five years ago. Since then I have explored other customs around the country and met people who feel the same way. Folk traditions have featured in poetry before, but I don’t feel previous poets have immersed themselves in them, like a method actor. When you take part in a folk tradition you directly connected to the people who first started them hundreds of years ago. I feel they bear some cultural significance and share similarities with customs in other countries, but have now been overshadowed by elitist notions of Brexit and Empire.”

“Stoppard’s words weave a maypole whirl between grit, imagination, wit and surrealism, in a way which is both deeply relatable and beautifully strange … they do a vital, joyful job in drawing attention to bruised performances of English folk myths, and a working-class masculinity trying to escape its moorings.”
— Kate Fox

The Garland King is singular, exciting, wry and anarchic – working-class history meets modern anxiety. Matthew’s poems upend the everyday and examine what falls from its pockets; to say that he finds poetry in these things would be patronising: the poetry is there all along. The trick’s in knowing how to listen, how to report back. Reader, you’re in safe hands.”
— Helen Mort


Matthew Hedley Stoppard was born in Derbyshire in 1985. After a brief career as a journalist, he now works as a librarian, and lives in Otley with his wife and two sons.

Recordings of Matthew’s poetry include Insect Eucharist and Other Poems (2012) and the spoken-word album Runt County (2014), both available from Adult Teeth Recordings. On the page, his poetry has appeared in Magma, Iota, Cake, The Morning Star, A Complicated Way of Being Ignored (Grist, 2012) and Holding Your Hand Through Hard Times (Osset Originals, 2014).

Matthew's debut collection of poetry, A Family Behind Glass, was published by Valley Press in 2013, and was included in the Guardian's Readers' Books of the Year. His next publication was Cinema Stories (2015), a collaboration with fellow Leeds-based poet James Nash, celebrating the movie theatres of Leeds, past and present.

His second solo collection, The Garland King, was published in November 2020.


Edition: First

Date Published: 2020-11-26

ISBN: 9781912436514

Catalogue Number: VP0172

Number of Pages: 64

Cover design by Jamie McGarry

Cover illustration by Ben Edge

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