Stephen Watts, 6 May, 2019Like Robert Macfarlane , I am “moved and fascinated by Stephen Watt’s poetry in ways I find hard to explain” and “powerful to experience”. Watts is indeed a fine and subtle writer on the relations of landscape and mind.We’ve not had a poet who read as many long poems before. Stephen’s aren’t ‘difficult’ in a literary way, they have lots of colour, repetition and emphasis on sound; an all-embracingness, often with a serious social or political edge. Thus apparent ease holds complex ideas.Sometimes he riddles: ‘What keeps me going is what’s pulling me apart’. A poem in which the title and 18 of its 23 stanzas starts with the same five words. I chose ‘change’ as a theme after the perceived shifts in Stephen’s life. Moves from university in London to the Outer Hebrides, then again to a congenial home in East London. In the event, he focused on the similarities of the places in which his moves left him. Both for instance, have water, birds, and 25% unemployment.There were poems with unlikely titles such as ‘How to understand a Tree at Night’ and ‘Early Morning Visit From David Silver’ before the reading closed with ‘Birds of East London’. This was the single poem that prompted me to invite Stephen to Saltmarsh. We were well rewarded. **Change was the theme that governed most of the 15 poems from the floor. Dominic’s David Bowie take on this (‘Change’), with it’s hesitant ch ch ch was a beautiful evocation of what age brings. ‘Oh, yeah / Mmm’. Three poems danced movingly round George Herbert’s ‘Death’ with its ‘Flesh being turned to dust, and bones to sticks’. A searing honesty partly mitigated with Hilda’s humerous response to Mike’s choice:‘Change it all, come what maybut not my man, he’s got to stay.’ from ‘Alternatives’.Herbert also inspired the Lumleys to write affectionate love poems.George brought Hopkins’ ‘Pied Beauty’, essentially a poem of praise for the landscape. ‘He (God) fathers-forth whose beauty is change’. Pol stayed with the scape of our Scolt Head’s ‘ever-changing / never-changing (The Island’). Jill’s poem (“You’ll soon change your tune / When you know what I know!”) was a musical interrogation of the saying to change-one’s-tune. Her epigraph asked Do I have to change my tune? Keith’s take on change was a subtle, if depressing, investigation into life by jury (Prosecution Summing-Up). The defendant had little to refute. In contrast, Maureen’s changes were national and physical - war, house-moves, chicks from eggs, posed against the essential ‘untouched’ life of self.Only Bob chose money (‘Loose Change’) to illustrate how many developments in our 21st century life have altered like waving ‘a smart-card at a screen/ to make a purchase’. Peter’s ‘Sleeping Soldiers’ was taken from a snap in the Sainsbury Centre’s large photograph exhibition. Asleep, the men were altered. ‘Look / at their once-sucked thumbs!’ Carla chose the prolific young American poet, Martin’s Estrada’s, surreal sketch on the entertainers in Midsummer Night’s Dream (‘Hard-Handed Men of Athens’). The web tells us that Estrada’s father was jailed for refusing to move to the back of a bus in Jim Crow Mississippi and went on to become a leading organizer in New York’s Puerto Rican community. Like his Pa, ’Estrada understands the guilt, rage, and loss of self-esteem that oppression imposes’.