Hey everyone. It was two years ago tonight that a young man I did not know at the time, but whom I now know as both a poet and a friend gathered with his family and his closest companions at Waterstones Glasgow bookstore to launch his first collection of poetry. The collection was called Spit and the man in question is the current Words and Music performance poetry champion and holder of the Hughie Healy Memorial Trophy Stephen Watt.
Spit is an eclectic collection of poetry featuring one of the most significant voices of a new generation of writers. Stephen Watt combines both the bold and brash patter of west of Scotland lad with the sensitivity and sophistication of the cultured meterosexual man. Proof if any were needed that Scottish men can actually multi-task. He has a sharp eye for detail, quick and ready wit, and a performance style which can only be described as highly engaging. Trust me this is a man who knows how to connect with his audience. This is a poet with serious people skills.
In the first poem in the collection which is also the title poem Spit. Watt describes spit as being ‘punk, sex, the slang for rap, and the preferred hair gel of West Germany’s Rudi Voeller. This demonstrates his ability to provide the reader with not only raw emotion but biting social commentary from a man not afraid of pulling punches.
This skill is also highlighted in the poem He Taught Cantona Kung Fu. However on this occasion it is combined with a gentle sensitivity in describing the tortured soul of a man struggling to cope with Bi-Polar disorder. This is ably demonstrated in the first stanza of the poem as he leads you in to the troubled mind of the victims with the used of the lines ‘eyes like flying saucers, telling alien stories nobody really believes except him. These lines conjure up images of a man with serious identity issues. Stephen further explores these issues in the second stanza of the poem as he states ‘he taught Cantona Kung Fu and Iggy how to syringe,but knew hidden cameras recorded his daily dramas from inside his fridge. This is the mind of a deeply disturbed man that Stephen is putting under the microscope as he examines the complexities of a very challenged individual.
In his poem Done With Clubbing, he looks at moving on from clubbing to the next stage of life whatever that is for a poet. He starts this thought provoking piece with one of the best opening lines I’ve ever seen in any poem. ‘Game over you lose Hangovers aren’t worth the booze’. To me at least and possibly this very gifted poet this is the time in your life when you have a moral responsibility to pretend to occasionally act like an adult. This is when you’ve been told either by your body or your parents that you’ve grown up. The implications of this for someone with a creative mind can be potentially catastrophic as you suddenly realise the only things which are certain in life are death, taxes, McDonald’s and Tory Governments and we can get only ever get rid of the last one, and even then that depends on a yes vote in the forthcoming independence referendum.
Make no mistake this poet is not afraid to tackle big social problems including alcohol addiction and prostitution. In his poem Quayside Jakes. As is the case in so much of his work, Stephen Watt makes use of powerful illuminating images to draw the reader in to the world he refers to in his work.
The second stanza of this poem shows Watt at his brilliant and devastating best as he shows the world of the drunk is no romantic fairytale despite some people usually ones who have never been drunk having delusions to the contrary. He highlights this by with the lines ‘conversations about Stanley Kubrick, derelict dreams with windows smashed in. homesick, lovesick, yellow sick down the pigeon gray suit he bought in Amsterdam. This shows that people can turn to drink for a multitude of reasons and the seedy world they inhabit now may be made of circumstance rather than choice. I particularly like the idea of phrase derelict dreams with the windows smashed in. This to me shows that people can be broken by events just as much as any decisions they make and illustrates that hopelessness offers no easy way out.
My favourite poem in the this immensely enjoyable and excellent debut collection is the prostitute where the poet uses empathy and compassion for the sex worker who he views with far more humanity than is ever portrayed in the media when covering the world’s oldest profession. The telling lines in the second stanza show the warmth of the poet ‘ Rent reflects well-worn clothes, birthday gifts from a decade ago. The torn tights allow summer night fingers to come and go to a peep show of what is on offer. Breasts rest like a child’s sucked pillow,
and the stretch marks suggest single mother’.
These lines show the desperation of the prostitute and a woman surviving on yesterday’s memories when times were kinder and she was loved for who she was rather what she can offer others.
In this thoroughly readable anthology a gifted poet deals with subjects as varied as the emotions of daleks B-movies and technology from texts to out of date video recorders with a by using a mixture of styles which allow him to express a wide range of emotions and show the reader some truly breathtaking imagery. This is a young poet destined to reach the very top of the poetry league a man who is master of his craft.
Stephen Watt is in the words of the Milton Keynes Poet Laureate Mark Niel ‘ an exciting new voice on the poetry scene and his first collection is alive with spiky witty and inventive wordplay’. The more I read his work and the more I hear him perform the harder it becomes to argue with that description. Well anyone who can describe spit as sex, rap, and the preferred hair gel of a certain West German footballer is indeed a wordsmith of the very highest order.
Love And Best Wishes