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Brian Sheffield's Review of In the Dark, Soft Earth

Frank Watson's poetry sits in that strange place where the immediate and the past mingle, "like wind / that whistles / a melody / from another time." At first, it speaks to a kind of deeper ancestral memory -- or rather, those small infinities that seem to exist in moments that have always been, and always will be: the way "music sleeps / between the leaves." Everywhere here, there seems to be a recognition of something that came long before him. Eventually though, one gets the feeling that Watson is telling a very personal story that also happens to be among the oldest stories told -- one of love and loss, rooted in the romantic, familial, and memorial. Or even, when envisioned from the perspective of a world that feels almost like science-fiction, it can look like a love for an earth we are losing -- an elegy for a once greener, more vibrant earth, rich with a wild diversity of life, which now feels more devoid of that variety. Sometimes as "silent as an owl / with blinking eyes" that "echo[es] a land we travel only in our sleep," the poetry might bring to mind John Cayley's translations, as Watson "follow[s] the routes / to ancient lands / ...on a journey traced / through ancient maps." Other times, we are reminded of Mary Oliver ("I cannot measure the dark -- / the rock I drop / falls silent to where / there is no sand"), or Louise Gluck as a tree becomes a mirror to our own cycles of life, and our own assumed immortality. Some of these poems could have been cave paintings, "[time shaped] / with a chisel," while the later poems bring us barreling into the present, "swimming in jazz." In the end, though, these beautiful, concise poems deal in passion, love, and the interlinking relationship of humans, nature, memory, and the world of dreams it seems neither can touch.
 

Brian Sheffield’s poetry has appeared in the anthologies, Before Passing (Great weather for MEDIA, 2016) and Palabras Luminosas (Rogue Scholars Press, 2016).