In October 2019, myself and Matthew Gravolin were eagerly waiting the arrival of a big box full of copies of Permanent Swim, his book of poetry. As Matt’s first book and the first published book for Depth Publishing, it was both extremely nerve-wracking as well as exciting. I was having restless nights with dreams which featured the books arriving with text too tiny to be read (!).
But also in October 2019, Matt presented me with the first version of his second book, All’s Well That Ends. At 11:11pm to be precise:
At 11:11 on the eve of our first book's arrival, I humbly present you with the first version of the second 🙏❤️
In your email whenever you fancy a gander x
Diving in as soon as I saw it, my first read of ‘book 2’ had me crying, a lot. As I write this, we are excitedly awaiting the arrival of a big box of copies of All’s Well That Ends., so I’d like to share a little about the pieces contained within it, without giving too much away. As much as I love this book and I feel that Matt’s writing has continued to bloom, I want each reader to form their own connection with the pieces and have their own unique sparks of thought and inspiration.
All’s Well That Ends.
Firstly, the title. Deliberately bookended by a full stop, you could absolutely interpret this to understand that endings are the central subject matter of the book and its pieces of prose. Matt has explored endings of lives, endings of relationships, and endings of situations in his poems, among many other things – such as beginnings, new experiences, and observations.
As with Permanent Swim before it, All’s Well That Ends. is a capture of Matt’s life, as signified by the “28” on the rear of the cover (created by Pat Fox). As a son, friend, musician, man, lover, anxiety sufferer, and other ‘hats’ he may wear on his adventure of life, he’s channelled it all into prose. We’re with him when he is confronted by the pain of regret and when he’s watching impatient people sigh and ‘tsk’ at airports. Significant or subtle, in states of blissful adoration, soaring highs, or paralysing anxiety, and grief-ridden lows, this is 28.
When I undertake my role as editor, I’m not entirely ruthless nor driving of how things should be. My voice isn’t part of this nor what’s being expressed through the pieces. I instead use my understanding of Matt’s intention with each piece, and go by feel and intuition and resonance, ensuring that it ‘speaks’ as intended. A full stop may not be a common thing to find in a title, but it resonated strongly and validly, and just made immediate sense to me in its feeling of finality. There’s things that may be considered grammatically imperfect that have been kept due to their importance in expressing the meaning and atmosphere of the piece.
Instead of the archetypes that Permanent Swim featured with each section, Matt has titled sections with a meaningful title that encapsulates certain ‘sections’ of his life. For example, a section relating to his observations during travel is called “Jaunt”, and his pieces about having moved to Melbourne are fittingly headed by “New Womb”.
Allow me to touch on each section now. If you wish to skip this and take your own immersion as it happens, scrolling to the bottom with give you a link to pre-order All’s Well That Ends.
The Free Man
In this opening section, Matt allows you, dear reader, immediately into his life and its familial history. Love and loss are intertwined and death leaves permanent scars.
As new knowledge to me, having only come across the concept in Matt’s writing, I’ve learned there are specific psychiatric syndromes that are categorised as ‘delusions’. Named after their discoverers or their inspirations, Matt touches on three delusional beliefs in relevance to his own experience, each with their own subtitles.
“The Fregoli Delusion (I Want to Be the One to Walk in the Sun)” touches on the sameness of how we all tend to present ourselves, with our different faces, which Matt refers to as “the comic opera of man”.
“The Cotard Delusion (Divide Your Loves)” is a nihilist delusion which holds the belief of being already dead while still alive. Matt’s metaphor of being “a phantom marionettist” captures this feeling of emptiness while continuing to go through the motions.
“The Capgras Delusion (I Don’t Want to Be a Room Locked to You)” touches on the two personalities felt when considering the ease of writing versus what can be spoken, and not wanting this limitation to negatively impact a relationship.
Each of the “Jaunt” pieces features a place name and a date, and a capture of experience. But there’s a lot more to it than that, as each capture shines a light on Matt’s beliefs as well as his perspective of himself as well as others. I read these pieces and easily visualise the world spinning by Matt quite quickly while life delivers people and experiences to him.
One of these experiences delivers “A singer named Charlotte” to Matt at 2000 Trees festival, and the romanticist in me loves that this special moment in time with meeting his girlfriend (CJ Gilpin of Dream State) was captured in its quiet innocence. There’s also mention of “Mr. Manners” in here, which is perhaps a lovely seed of an idea planted in 2018 of a project to come, with further mention of it in the section while on a 2019 flight to Hong Kong.
“Interdependency” tells more of the ‘Charlotte story’ and beautifully captures Matt’s perspective of their love, from wide life-altering angles, and also momentary glimpses of grounded reality. It includes their shared joys, their shared frustrations, and even their shared food poisoning. Read this section and understand the exquisite power of unconditional love, much like what we hear in the beautiful Agnes Manners’ song, “As Long As You’re Mine”.
Centring around Matt’s roles as writer, songwriter, and touring musician, “The Disciplines” muses on the focus and effort that runs undercurrent to these talents. I love the realistic nature of these captures, with complete absence of propped up glory. It can be hard work to create, even if you’re skilled at your craft, and Matt has allowed us into his thinking and self-conversation about this.
“Ten Hours” deserves to be received and absorbed without any expectation or explanation going into it. The section captures a literal ten hour period of Matt’s life and each piece of the section explores his thoughts during that period of time; from the simple setting of his shift of working behind a bar through to being at home. We decided to deliberately leave blank pages after this section to allow for a moment of contemplation and quiet before diving into the next.
As a section that Matt and I talked about a lot before going ahead in the form you see it now, “Narcotica” features tales of inebriation and the use of intoxicants as social lubricant and remedy. Matt doesn’t hold back in this, so it may be eye-opening to follow a thread that begins with simmering insecurity and where that evolves to, but the section is another important one. The section even includes a piece that is an unedited iPhone note which is riddled with fear and is barely comprehensible, but it is palpable and meaningful nonetheless.
The section is not intended to glorify drug use in any way, and as well as high-flying joy, connection, and acceptance, there are internal question marks and discomforts noted, such as in the piece “Be Satisfied”. It’s part of Matt’s experience, and is not an uncommon one. In my mind, I see the section and its insights as something that could be looked at historically; information included in a broad snapshot in time of what being 28 in 2019 was truly like. In Matt’s words, “I don’t feel the need to hide or justify any of this. It’s a complicated way to be.”
Rites of Passage
This section explores the idea of ‘growing up’ in a number of ways, but what stands out to me is Matt’s childhood perceptions of gender and similarly how romanticised expectations are juxtaposed with a reality that doesn’t necessarily live up to them. Life-altering choices feature in this section, as does the enduring acceptance from his mother that has spanned over Matt’s lifetime. There’s a distinct deterioration of things captured in “Rites of Passage”, as well as a pondering of his life in Sydney; where fear lives. It absolutely suits the Agnes Manners song “Sydney”.
Brushes with the Well-Heeled
In fancy restaurants, on pristine beaches, and in business class, this section is Matt’s take on the affluent life. “Business Class 28/5/19” makes me smile every time I read it, and “Kandooma 3/9/19” inspires a deadpan gritting of teeth. You’ll see what I mean.
“Neurotica” ponders on being human and the ways we cope.. or don’t. Moments of anxiety and cerebral dances of managing these things feature. Through airport lounge observations, captures of waking up with anxiety, and stream-of-consciousness writing, Matt unravels woes and worries and tensions in this section – so it’s understandably open and vulnerable.
In “Neurotica”, eagle-eyed readers will connect the mention of the “scattered white debris on a black plate” that Matt sings about in Agnes Manners’ “Evergreen”, as well as maybe understand more about the “Knot of common calcium, apologies, and meat” flavour of self-analysis and identity that we heard in “As Long As You’re Mine”.
If it’s not yet understood, Matt’s sharings via song or poetry are genuine captures, flaws and all. I love that pre-Permanent Swim pondering is captured in this section (and hey, I’m mentioned in there too!), alongside real world aches, such as wondering how bills might be paid.
“New Womb” is a section of All’s Well That Ends. that has some stunningly quotable quotes. I’ve even already shared some via my personal twitter account many months ago, simply because I couldn’t resist. This is one:
“When you realise
that what you have is all that you need
the world belongs to you
for every hour spent believing it.”
This section explores open-mindedness and change, as well as our sameness, and recognition of what’s important to the individual – and the championing of it. “As Long As You’re Mine”‘s mentions of forgiveness and the cost of “sweating about money” also marry up with this section. It’s all real, real, real.
The Meadow of Automata
This section is Matt’s perspective of technology and the way we use it, for better or for worse. The mindless scrolling loops, vanity, arrogance, humiliation.. “Bullshit” is a regularly used word here amongst his poignant observations.
This section also sees Matt land upon an important realisation that has stuck with me from first read: “The thing to do is tell the truth and wear it well,” and by extension, “Honesty is the only weapon I need.” In the name of honesty, he takes us into his realisation of holding prejudice toward people that he didn’t know, and how that has changed.
In this final section, Matt shares the beautiful eulogy that he wrote for his father’s funeral.
“To hear him laugh was to know joy.”
In the process of editing All’s Well That Ends., I must have read through the manuscript countless times, and yet each of those times I was moved. And I still am moved looking over it today to take notes. Showing the power of honesty in action, All’s Well That Ends. is Matt sharing intimate insight as to his experiences and how he sees the world, without a coating of gloss to cover anything up.
You are kindly supporting both Matt and I directly with every purchase of All’s Well That Ends., which you can pre-order now via 24Hundred, along with other merch bundles for the Agnes Manners album, Fantasia Famish, which releases on 18th September! If you’ve loved the singles so far, you’re going to love the album too.
This seems like a good opportunity to express my gratitude toward those who’ve embraced both Permanent Swim and All’s Well That Ends. so far. Even just enthusiasm or sharing about it means a lot! It’s such a pleasure to work with Matt and help bring his words into print and out into the world, not to mention see the impact that they have on others. Needless to say, we’re absolutely buzzing with excitement to see the reactions to this newest book, and cannot wait until it’s out in the world!