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by Ralph Watley

Pub Date: Dec. 27th, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-4257-7415-8

While much of it could record well musically, this verse lacks the complexity, depth and precision of truly solid poetry.

In his brief piece “A Thought,” Watley describes the poetic process: “A thought in your mind / Goes from pen to paper / As fragile as a newborn in nature / It grows a little.” But ultimately, one wishes that Watley had let his thoughts grow just a bit more. While some of this work shows real promise, much stands in need of cultivation. The poet takes on big, traditional themes–life, love, aging, death–but too frequently stoops to platitudes in describing their mysteries. Discussing the passage of time in “Life Slips Away,” the author writes: “Life slips away / Even as we speak / Seconds and minutes / Turn into days / Days into weeks.” And on love in “Love Is a Flame”: “Love is a flame / Keeps burning brighter / When you’re around / Always going higher.” The author is much better–and more clever–when he is working with precise imagery. In the well-done “Walking on Today,” he expresses a quiet sadness that maps of streets and homes cannot show. Watley is also a songwriter, and many of his poems have the feel of pop lyrics. One happily imagines a young singer crooning his simple song “It’s All Right”: “It’s All right / To cry tonight / I’ll tell you why / I’m not by / Your side.” At other times, however, his flair for songwriting can make his poetry seem like little more than a rehash of old standards. A few lines from “Make It Happen,” for example: “Just to have a sweetheart like you / I’d swim the deepest ocean / Or climb the highest view.” Ashford and Simpson said it more profoundly, and more poetically, 40 years ago.

Poetry that doesn’t quite pop.