Sunday, April 15, 2007

Introduction for Craig Watson by erica kaufman

Craig Watson is the author of Secret Histories (Burning Deck, 2007), True News (Instance Press, 2002) and Free Will (ROOF Books, 2000). He works as a producer and dramaturge at Trinity Repertory Company, a professional theater in Rhode Island.

Craig Watson's newest collection of poetry, Secret Histories, begins with a quote from the great Bob Dylan song, "Visions of Johanna"—"this must be what salvation feels after a while" ( Blonde on Blonde, 1966). This song is one of many examples of Dylan's mastery of both rapid fire long image songs, as well as stories of the current political climate (in this case "Visions of Gehenna" or hell). Watson accomplishes these things and more in his work—a lyric "documentarian" of "political unrest" or a mapper of images via cyclical phrasing so tight not a word escapes the eye or ear.

In Secret Histories, Watson presents us with several serial poems, each written in a visual structure that mirrors the social climate he explicates. To quote from "Steppe Work--#7), "to be human [the lying animal]/ to believe a soul [made of mud]/ to whisper ["I belong to no-body"]" The call and response format of these box-like numbered left justified poems is one that lends itself to being heard as an argument, while also echoing bleak musings often found in blues songs or folk music. In the poem, "Pre-Science," a roman numeraled sequence that appears as triads of steps, Watson writes, "there's no limit to limits," and this is indeed proven true as he continues to bring to the ear and the page that "Language is a process, as well as a product of those very processes of social and economic change" (The Radical Syntactical Forms of Language Poetry by Susan Brill). Watson writes in "Last Man Standing—December," "OK fiction/ this is what happens/ what if one knew/ the outcome/ of every event/ in advance."

Watson's Free Will also begins with a Dylan quote, "here's your throat back thanks for the loan" (from the song "Battle of a Thin Man")—again appropriate in how it mirrors what Steve Evans refers to as Watson's "uncowered ability to face and state truths we'd prefer to avoid." Or, to quote from "persuasion & judgement," "this is what we want/ what we paid for/ a world of property alternating with entertainment/ a statuatory cradle simplified for users/ one culture: inductive and pure."

It is my great honor to introduce to you, Craig Watson.