The bard of New Perlican
Retired ironworker has soft spot for poetry
All Bill Matthews of New Perlican needs to hear are the first few lines of a poem, and chances are he can recite the rest. At least, he’ll take a good stab at it. Poetry has been in his blood ever since he was a child.
“I spent my time climbing steel in North America,” the 58-year-old retired journeyman ironworker toldThe Compassrecently.
However, the harshness of the steel he worked with is tempered by his passion for poetry.
“I really enjoy some poems,” he said.
He traces the genesis of his love for poetry to his years in grade school in his hometown.
“ We had to do quite a bit of memorizing,” he explained.
Now, quite a few poems pop up as a matter of course, “and then I connect other things to them,” he said.
Two of his best-loved poems concern his life’s work.
“Blacksmithing was big in my mind,” he admitted.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “ The Village Blacksmith” resonates with him, “Under a spreading chestnut tree / The village smithy stands ...”
Charles Mackay’s “ Tubal Cain” tells the story of a “man of might / In the days when the Earth was young; / By the fierce red light of his furnace bright / The strokes of his hammer rung ...”
Charles E. Carryl’s “Robinson Crusoe’s Story” holds pride of place in Matthews’ repertoire, “ The night was thick and hazy / When thePiccadilly Daisy/ Carried down the crew and captain in the sea ...”
“I think it was the humourous part that made me remember this one,” he said.
There are other compositions, including “I must go down to the sea,” by John Masefield, and “ The Tree” by Ezra Pound, the latter holding special meaning for Matthews.
“It’s a great form of expression,” he said.
He studied little “Newfoundland content in grade school,” he said.
Matthews has written a few poems through the years, but those are still in his head.
“I love reading the stuff, but my weakness is getting it on paper,” he said with a chuckle.
To Matthews, reading — whether poetry or prose — is a veritable blessing.
“Anyone who’s missing out on reading is missing out an awful lot,” he said.