‘Watermark’ by Clayton Michaels

Untitled #19

by Clayton Michaels

We never truly fill
the holes –
We just
learn to live around them,
while the empty
resonates like jade.
Clear and cold.

Strike it right
it almost rings forever.

The poems in Clayton Michaels’ Watermark are so many black-and-white etchings – sparely-drawn and starkly-observed. A multi-faceted examination of existential angst, they comment widely — on the isolation and instability inherent in the human condition; on the unreliability of ‘communication’; on the roles we give to dream and illusion. Underpinned by references and cross-references from music and film, from the Bible and the natural world, the mood of the collection plays in a minor key, providing an effective backdrop for Michaels’ many strong and unexpected uses of language, which make the kind of bold connections that jolt a reader into thought, such as this:

Now hemlock’s coming back
in a big way –

hemlock and purple nightshade,

tainting the groundwater, swelling
our tongues

and changing our accents.

(from ‘anodyne’)

or this:

When I was in the loam, an unkindness of ravens
plucked white tulip bulbs

from my throat; forgiveness doesn’t
grow here.

(from ‘eleemosynary’)

You can also hear a Whale Sound group reading of one of the poems from the chapbook here.

Check it out!

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5 thoughts on “‘Watermark’ by Clayton Michaels

  1. clayton1220 says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Nic!

  2. Uma says:

    Thanks for this review Nic. Every poem of Clayton Michaels in this collection is a gem and I have read them several times!

  3. [...] Sound blog, posted a very nice review of Watermark to her blog Very Like a Whale. You can read it here. Whale Sound did a very nice group reading of ‘chokecherry’ a few months ago that you [...]

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