Fantasy, dreams and nightmares are given free rein in Watson’s (Seas to Mulberries, 2013, etc.) latest poetry collection.
Watson begins with a simple and bold declaration of his collection’s overarching themes: “to the poet / there is a love of beauty / in all its / terrifying forms.” This is more than empty hyperbole; beauty and terror frequently intersect throughout his poems, often with clever and engaging results. This juxtaposition is prominently featured in one of the unnamed poems toward the end of the collection, in which one young girl’s curiosity spells doom for a famous nursery rhyme character: “she sat / with Humpty Dumpty / and gave him / a little push / (for such is life).” All the poems are free verse, which complements a collection whose subjects range from nursery rhyme characters to dolls to Tarot images and figures. In fact, some of the collection’s strongest poems deal with the tarot, a subject that fits well with the dual themes of beauty and terror. Many of the poems’ haunting images are reminiscent of the works of novelist Angela Carter, whose work frequently drew from fairy tales and folk tales. For example, another unnamed poem could easily fit in with Carter’s story “The Company of Wolves”: “she was a doe / with tender flesh / but the only ones / she loved / were hungry wolves.” In addition to fantasy, existential concerns are also prominently featured in Watson’s poems. In a short but chilling selection, the unnamed narrator cannot escape his or her own image: “washing my face / a thousand times / the mask remains in place.” Watson’s poetry succeeds as a collection of images, but at an average of four to six lines per poem, they don’t often venture further than a fragment of an image. Taken as a whole, Watson’s collection effectively sketches a surreal, ephemeral dream world. Read individually, however, the poems skim the surface of their potentials and seem like the beginnings of longer, more dynamic works.
Compact poems replete with stunning and visually arresting images, though their fragmentary nature may leave some readers wanting more.