Stephen Watts, 6 May, 2019 Like   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 may but 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’.