An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
Driftwood Publications
5 Timms Lane
L37 7DW
ISBN 1 904420 14 1

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This page last updated: 10th December 2007.

This is Colin Watts's second collection to be published by Driftwood; his first, GETTING THE HANG OF IT was published in 2002. The book comes with numerous recommendations, and it is a handsomely-produced volume of fifty-one poems. These poems vary considerably in style, tone and format, and Watts has very many modes at his command. I liked the straightforwardness of FIRST LOVE, in which the narrator recalls his experiences as a child in hospital for an appendectomy:

	Nurse Flynn brought me breakfast, lunch and tea
	and took me for sun-ray treatment.
	The rubber strap on the dark goggles
	pinched my ears and smelt like our bath mat.
	I cried when it was time to go home
	and asked Nurse Flynn if she would marry me.
	She said it would be her pleasure
	but she'd have to ask her Daddy first.
Similar in tone, his HUMAN GEOGRAPHY is a funny recounting of his hiding in the library as a schoolboy, dodging the librarian's searching eye, writing naughty Latin jokes, and concealing NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC magazines inside other books:
	I am being paddled upstream,
	deep into the Amazonian rain forest,
	where a lost tribe will ply me with drugs
	to grow my pubic hair and penis.
	Lithe girls will lead me trembling
	behind waterfalls, while conch drums beat
	and nose flutes whine.
Many of the poems work this ground of childhood and youth, disclosing narrators who are curious, out-of-place, quizzical and prone to fantasy. One of the most striking poems in this respect is CENSORED which tells of a boy with a magically long, powerful and cunning tongue, who engages in many feats of oral derring-do before
	a gang of zealots burst into my ranch,
	tied me up and broke my head with rocks,

	tore my living from my mouth with tongs,
	stabbed and stabbed it with their knives,
	hurled it, flailing, to their silent dogs
. When all this seems too violent, too boyish even, Watts changes direction, and reveals a winning sensitivity. Here is a stanza from WALKING IN THE WOODS, a poem which centres on the re-discovery of a favourite pair of boots.
	I bend to lift them and they float like feathers,
	smell of Columbine and peat and perfumes
	in the polish used; of summer rain,
	curlew crying, and brambles in the old green lane.
Amusing, self-deprecating, gentle, or bitter, there are many voices in these poems. Yet all of them are haunted by uneasiness. There is a capacity for acting, deceiving and nervous re-making of oneself throughout the collection. Many of the poems appear to be apologizing silently, making amends without saying 'sorry'. But whatever the motives in their composition, there is a vigour and strangeness even in the most matter-of-fact ones, which makes them well worth reading, and re-reading.

reviewer: John Ballam.