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Ian Watson – Clearing Up

Watson profile LEPW Feb 2021

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing February 2021.

Ian Watson is originally from Belfast but lives in Bremen, Germany. Alongside his scholarly and didactic work in both German and English, he is the author of two poetry collections in English, the latest being Granny’s Interpreter (Salmon Poetry 2016); a further collection with Salmon, Somewhere, Far Away, a Radio, is forthcoming. His recent German-language non-fiction includes Spielfelder: eine Fußballmigration, on football and identity, and Bremen erlesen, a literary and cultural guide to his second-home city in Germany (both with Edition Falkenberg). He also publishes translations of poetry from and into German and English. He has worked regularly for radio and also made the film Cool to be Celtic for German and French television (arte 1999). He teaches literary writing freelance in schools and in adult education and is a steering committee member of the Literaturhaus Bremen.

Clearing Up

On the windowsill,
sheets of mañana mañanas
from far yesterdays.

Behind the left speaker,
where the dust was deepest,
a dead bumble bee.

Poked by the duster,
the moth behind the curtain
flickers one last time.

Three priorities:
To do, Do now and Panic –
three accusing piles.

Wiping the desktop,
my elbow catches my tea:
tsunami keyboard.

Deaf Sentence

for EMW

On hearing
a good friend ask
if I, as I got older,
was also having trouble
with consonants and basses,
I had to admit that my main
treble was mostly with


near Vejer, Andalusia

At our Andalusian farmhouse holiday home,
we have tree rats, scorpions and hornets,
harmless snakes but poisonous spiders.

We are told not to wander out into
the sweet wild meadow, ankle-high,
at the end of our patio without our
socks and shoes. But I do.

Already half a sonnet has passed
and nothing at all has happened.

Which is how the story ends.

Greenwich Meal Time

First came Westminster Pier
then came the riverboat
then came the Thames
then came the hunger
then came a thought
then came the pun
and then came
the falafel

Scotch Corner

for Julia Boll

Heart of Midlothian –

Who but the Scots
would name their capital’s
railway station and a football club
after novels?

If I had some re-naming
to do here in Bremen,
the station would be
Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow
and the football club
À la recherche du temps perdu.

Two Poets

Two poets out for a walk
with thermos flasks and rucksacks
and sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs
and brand-new waterproof notebooks.

They wandered boldly through the crowd
to where the city’s river slimes
down to a sunless sea, down past
the coal barge and the railway bridge,
and drank the milk of pararhymes.

Then one said, a tad too loud,
I want to be Wordsworth today;
I’m tired of being Coleridge.

The Zoom Factor

Before you Zoom, conduct a thorough
screening of the room, at least the bit
that’s going to be behind you. Cast a
curious student’s eye from right to left.

But first, be deft and risk a mirror
glance to check yourself and wipe
your nose or trim your ragged eyebrow hair.

And don’t forget to give your screen a scan;
for your career will plummet if there’s a porn
site logo on your Favourites bar. I mean, you can
get fired or worse.

Oh, that portrait of Comrade Stalin
on the shelf will have to go; perchance
the marijuana plant? Oh no, the lilac
underpants now show behind
your shoulder as you speak.


© Ian Watson