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Work / Publication

Matthew the Horse combines poetry and illustration “borne from being a wally,” in new book

A lesser known creative endeavour of graphic artist Matthew the Horse is writing poems, an area of his process he has combined with illustrations in new publication, Forwards Always.

“I’ve been writing short nonsense poems for quite a while now,” explains Matthew. “Similar to the drawings in my sketchbook, they are an attempt to give form to the feeling of something else. I like the strange familiarity that comes from observing the world through a nonsense lens.” Despite edging on the side of the absurd, Matthew’s creative writing is inspired by everyday moments, “I’m seeking meaning, but through play,” he tells It’s Nice That. “Lots of these ideas were borne from being a wally around my pals or when I’m dancing for my wife, these are incidents where new ideas emerge.”

Matthew’s affection for poetry developed from a young age, “I have such fond childhood memories of reading worn out poetry books by the likes of Roger McGough, Spike Milligan and Willy Rushton,” says the illustrator. “They were books to be explored, rehearsed and revisited,” a process Matthew was keen to pursue in Forwards Always.

Designed with an ex-student of Matthew’s, Orlando Lloyd, the pair set to work on visualising each of the poems. “He’s a great designer and I knew he was interested in playful language,” says Matthew of the collaboration. “Also, he is an idiot. I made him some really big meals – really massive portions – and then we drank white wine in my studio and I read him some poems.” A key question the creatives asked themselves during the design of the book was “how could design activate the book through it’s reading?” In order to create “something to discover and make sense of on every page,” the book includes, “lots of footnotes, which provide a second voice throughout the book and again, invites more scrutiny”. Some pages are solely typographic, experimenting with variable layouts through size and weight. Whereas others include Matthew’s signature sketch illustration style, mirroring the poem’s narrative.

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