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By: Klyd Watkins
24 Poems / 49 Pages / $6
Published by The Temple Inc.
Distributed by The Temple Bookstore
P.O. Box 1773
Walla Walla, WA 99362

Review By: Charles P. Ries

Well regarded small press editor, publisher and poet, Charles Potts doesn't
publish just anyone. So, why did he publish a guy named Klyd Watkins from
Nashville, Tennessee? He told me, "I published Klyd Watkins' 5 Speed because
it is poetry that deserves a wider audience and more attention than his work
has hitherto received. It has some things in common with the work of other
poets I've published. For instance the absence of formal requirements other
than musicality and pertinence allows the poet to focus on the substance and
a style will innately be established. I promote poetry that has intellectual
rigor, emotional resonance, and high artistic intent." Over half the poems
in this collection are either about or mention Watkins favorite place for
poetic reflection, Radnor Lake, Tennessee. About this Potts notes, "More
particularly I have learned the value of re-considering the same location,
scene, or set of circumstances, under different or slightly altered
conditions, from Klyd Watkins. Different time of day, different season of
the year, different frame of mind, yield mutually supporting but
distinguishable results, completing the view or poet's vision."

Here are two examples of Watkins reflections at Radnor Lake. This a
concluding excerpt from his poem, "Radnor Lake, Second Observation Deck
January 9 2000": "I think I am thinking this to justify / a description of
the maple on the water / because reflection rules / here again today like it
did / the time the waves flipped my image and showed me / to the clouds. /
Again my horizontal maple's / gone aggressive - leafless / this time -
bobbing on the water. Its folded  / wave whipped shape bounces hard as if /
the waves are trying to throw form off the water / into flight / like some
kind giant last cousin / to a water spider thrashing to spring free / of
maple mambo on the water and rise / into dissipation's multiplication of

And this poem entitled, "Radnor Lake, Otter Creek Road February 6 2000":

"They fly so low - the buffle head ducks -

     their shadows race them across the waves

            the speed inverts my eyes

                                    and it seems those shadows

cast the whispering wings up off the water

into shallow air instead of the other

way round"

I asked Watkins to tell me about his writing process, in particular his
reason for spreading copy. He told me, "I like to be free to try any notion
that enters my mind. In doing that, I destroy the previous draft, and since
a lot of my impulses toward change turn out to be wrong, I need to be able
to backtrack. Since word processing files take so little space, virtually
none, I save, or "save as," all the drafts. I'm one of those poets that
fights with punctuation. If I'm going for momentum, and often I am, a comma
(in verse, not in prose) seems a conflict of interest, but you can't get rid
of all of them. Despite all my revision, I agree that, when the muse is
generous, the first thought is the best thought. I definitely write long
segments that I know better than to change." About his spreading copy he
says, "Pace is important to me. And when I get to rolling I tend to use
complex syntax. I find that with complex syntax I can use very simple
diction that works, and plays, really hard. I use lines, partial lines, the
sweep of the eye, multiple margins, to control pace, and use pace (or
attempt to) to help the reader thru the complex syntax. If the reader is
hearing the words inside her mind at the right speed, the sentences may be
involved but they are not hard to understand, I hope." This technique is
used well in his exceptional eight page poem entitled, "December 31, 1999".
Here is an excerpt from that poem:

"Oh indeed there shall be


discoveries   Sure   not because

it's the millennium   because awe

            at nature yielding her secret's

            part of what's

                        always there   but

                        should scientists


            soon   perhaps among

                                    the winking of coincidence



            I hear

                                    fascinates some of the now   but


            the acrobatic mimes in scientists minds

will detect

something new   let's say

                        a force or effect

                                                counter to entropy   which

the universe may be not winding down after all   that maybe

            the big bang was a big sneeze clearing a breath way"

There is a wise, whimsical center to these well crafted poems. It is
apparent that Watkins not only has a natural grace for words, but is also
well schooled in their use. He told me he received a BA and MA from
Vanderbilt in English in the late '60's. I wondered whether he felt his
schooling helped or hindered his progress as a writer. "I don't know for
sure. I suppose if I had been completely independent I should have dropped
out of college to read and write full time on my own, supporting myself with
simple, part time work. I had two sons by the time I was twenty-two and
prepared myself to support them. I not only studied, I taught. A decade at a
community college in Kentucky. The classroom can be a wonderful place to
read poetry. When you have three, five, a dozen, good readers going over a
text together-John Dunne or William Carlos Williams or Chaucer-and they all
get to putting their insights on the table, and the jocks or whoever may be
there only for credit begin to glean that there is really something there of
a value so energetic it goes beyond getting a grade, what's wrong with that?
I had to turn down a fellowship to Iowa Writer's Workshop when I was
twenty-four and had three sons. If I had been able to go to Iowa, would I
now be even better or even worse?"

These poems exude kindness and compassion - wisdom. I noted that many of his
poems are reflections, meditations on life - the moments before our gaze. I
suggested that he sounded a bit like a southern philosopher, and he told me,
"I am not particularly well read in philosophy (or anything else, except
perhaps poetry).  It is kind of you to pose that as a neutral statement,
even a bit of a compliment possibly. When my friend Hugh Fox states a
similar opinion it sounds like an accusation; he says I "turn into a
combination of Richard Morris, Kant and St. Thomas Aquinas," and most of my
poet friends hold the aesthetic position that it is incorrect for a poet to
be philosophical, a position that is itself either philosophical or
unconscious. Since I became aware, as a teenager I guess, that we have the
freedom and the duty to craft our own lifestyle, not take it ready made from
anyone, I have wanted to be both free and responsible. Perhaps the tension
between freedom and responsibility forced me to become somewhat
systematically thoughtful."

This depth of thought and rigor of thought is evident in each poem in 5
Speed. Here is a wonderful example of his ability to take a common moment
and raise it to philosophical reflections. It is entitled, "June day at the
Y": "All the tanning young mommies // and that's not even the same /
lifeguard / lord there are too many goddesses // and I myself tho I am most
surely / a mortal man // that is not all I am, that is not even / what I am.
My eyes squint / to climb / sun splashes over the red bathing suit / and
phenomenal legs and arms of the lifeguard / knowing in my head there is /
something higher    something / we climb /inward into     something whose /
unending beauty / we / in our doomed flesh reflect."  

I want to thank Charles Potts and editors like him who bring us voices like
Klyd Watkins.  He's a wonderful writer and southern gentleman whose poetry
is precise, lyrical and luminous.


Charles P. Ries lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His narrative poems, short
stories, interviews and poetry reviews have appeared in over one hundred
print and electronic publications. He has received three Pushcart Prize
nominations for his writing and most recently he read his poetry on National
Public Radio's Theme and Variations, a program that is broadcast over
seventy NPR affiliates.  He is the author of THE FATHERS WE FIND, a novel
based on memory. Ries is also the author of five books of poetry - the most
recent entitled, The Last Time which was just released by The Moon Press in
Tucson, Arizona. He is the poetry editor for Word Riot 
 and he is on the board of the Woodland Pattern
Bookstore in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 



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