Published On: Wed, Jan 9th, 2013

Watt Poetry

spit 3


By Katrina Joyce


Nothing good comes from being mugged; not usually, but when Stephen Watt was robbed twice in six months it started something other than court proceedings.

“It became a source of fascination to me, why people became hooked on drugs, attacked innocent bystanders, and became involved in the darker belly of the city.”

The fascination manifested itself into poetry and, at the age of 19, Watt began to write the verses which would get him noticed.

“My poem ‘Rubik’ caught the attention of the publishers. Something in that poem appeared to strike a nerve. Fear, hope, love – or perhaps it was just because I managed to use Space Invaders in a romantic context.

“Whatever it was, it won me a publishing contract in the Slam Final in Peterborough. I won out of 8,000 entrants and I will be forever grateful for it.”

The victory came as a pleasant surprise to the Old Kilpatrick poet, who had never trained in creative writing.

“I began drawing and writing comics at the age of three, then sketching, and later writing short stories, when I was 13.

“I went on to study Communication, Languages & Media at Caledonian University during my teens.”

Combining this creative background with appetite for poetry, Watt refined and pushed his verse, until he produced Spit, his debut collection that launched last March.

“Spit is ultimately a collection of poems written between 2008 and 2011.

“A great share of the book is written from the position of the underdog; someone who has the odds against them, but is clinging to that flake of hope that this will be their way out, their happy ending.

“I think the audience can expect their bedtime nectar to taste a little sweeter after the experience.”

Yet the poet notes that his work won’t meet everyone’s taste. With verses about sex, mental health and domestic violence, Spit is not for children. However, its combination of gritty drama, local dialect and vulnerability is something Watt thinks will strike a chord with adults.

“The language is not high-brow, but I do believe that there is strength in the imagination, and it lends a truthful, working-class voice.

“I can’t tell you about the ivory poachers in Africa, but I can tell you about the lady at the Bingo with the black eye.”

Everyday scenes are a big part of Watt’s creative process. Carrying a note pad he jots down habits and reflections of people he sees in the street, before fleshing them out into different characters.

“The number of post-it notes I have lying around can look like Yellow Pages of a squirrel sometimes, but deciding which ones fit romance, supernatural, melancholic, or everyday life subjects can be very difficult and frustrating.

“There is nothing worse than when you have a terrific piece of imagery wasted in a rotten poem, and it only cheapens its value when used in a second piece of writing.”

This is the tough attitude Watt has adopted to prepare himself for the Edinburgh 10RED poetry competition. Although the event isn’t until March he is already writing and performing pieces, to shortlist for the day.

As if that is not work enough, Watt has been collaborating with Clydebank studios, Red Eye, to produce Retaliate, a punk poem, for a Sex Pistols tribute album, marking the band’s 35th anniversary.

Punk is just one of the many influences Watt cites in his work.

He adds, “Do not ever consider that you cannot express yourself if you let other people’s stories influence you, because you will have experiences that only you can put your own stamp on and learn from.

“In the meantime, you just keep moulding your own thoughts until someone else wants to listen to them.”