I've been a writer and author of fiction and poetry since 1969. A poetry chapbook and a poetry broadsheet appeared in 1975, followed by a short story collection (Fernandez Tale and Other Stories) in 1999 and a poetry collection (Seeing: Collected Poems, 1973-2000) in 2000. This year saw the publication of two books, "The Old Man and the Monkey" and "Grandfather and the Raven", both by Night Publishing (UK) and both set in Japan. I'm currently working on a novel ("Seiji") about a Tokyo artist.
Originally from Seattle, WA (US), my wife and I moved to Japan in early 2008.
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Smashwords book reviews by George Polley
- Knifing the Famous!
on Aug. 10, 2010
"Raconteur" is probably the best word to describe John Watson as he recounts his story to his daughter, Carolyn Allen. There are many fine, interesting tales here: experience in India, Burma and Malaysia during World War II, experiences as a physician, inventor and electrical "Mister Fixit", family man and, finally, famous plastic surgeon. Toward the end of the book there is also a mystery: Did he or didn't he perform plastic surgery on an infamous Peer who disappeared after being accused of murder. Some of the most interesting stories, at least for me, were about his experiences during World War II.
My only disappointment is that Doctor Watson's career as a plastic surgeon comes so late in the book. From the title, I had expected it to come early on. For me that makes it appear a minor theme, instead of the major theme that the title suggests.
- No Light / Might Escape
on July 03, 2011
Joe Hakim is a poet, writer and performer from Hull, England. The title of this collection of stories and poems refers to a black hole into which all light vanishes and none escapes. Hull is like that, “a place without hope for so long - even for those working all hours against impossibly dangerous odds - that it has become somewhere which tolerates what would be considered as a failed life anywhere else” (Night Publishing).
We see this in his poem “at withersea”:
When I was a boy this place
felt like the other side of the
I would spend hours hurling
pebbles at the tide and
overturning rocks to find
crabs hiding from the sun,
and then I would run
into the ea. The beaches
would be packed with families,
but now everything is empty.
Shops and cafes are ancient
and the kids are all on heroin.
Cracked plaster and peeling
is everywhere, houses falling
into disrepair and no one cares.
Like cliffs slowly
falling into the sea, something
crumbles inside me as I watch
waves break sadly against the
a ghost of childhood
laid to rest at last.
Joe Hakim writes gritty poems about life as the poet wanders through his days and nights, everything swathed in shades of grey and dirty black, “wine-stained towels and / sweat shop t-shirts”, moving from place to place as his circumstances change, surviving as best he can a life that has been hard on him.
Joe Hakim, like Paul Perry and Charles Bukowski, is a poet of the dark places, the disjointed life of alcohol and mind-altering drugs that advertise an “expanded reality” but leave one with a bleak sense of reality that caves in on itself just as a black hole does.
“No Light / Might Escape” is an honest book in presenting what life lived in a black hole is like, where one’s lifestyle is surviving rather than living, and where one’s outlook on life is bleak. From my own personal experience, living in that black hole is no fun because it is so terribly limiting, futile and deadly. Leaving it thirty-two years ago broadened my horizons further than I ever thought I could see.
- Coming to a street near you
on July 03, 2011
I’ve read enough about Hull, England, to know that it has gone through some rough times, has some mean streets and probably more than a fair share of drugs and too much booze to lubricate and sooth the experience, and has experienced a creative renaissance since the arrival of poet Philip Larkin some years ago. As his publisher says, Mike Watts writes poetry that “looks like Hull, it sounds like Hull and it smells like Hull, a place we are all proud to come from, even if we don't always enjoy the experience of being there at the time.” I can think of any number of cities in the U.S. and elsewhere that fit this description. Though I’ve never lived in one, from reading Mike Watts’ fine book, I can imagine what it's like.
There are some gritty poems in this book, like “Cider Barry”, “Two Things”, “Chaos Magnet” or “Me”. in Cider Barry, “My mate’s a boozer,/ Always smashed on cider,/ Always lost in space,/ Wind milling/ All over the place./ And it troubles me./ It’s horrible./ … He’s no different from me;/ Good home,/ Good family,/ No trauma,/ No tragedy.” Puts a fellow in an awful dilemma. “Come on just a fiver/ You know I’d do the same for you.”/ I know I shouldn’t,/ But tell me,/ What would you do?”
In “Me”, “I’m afraid of change,/ I’m afraid to change,/ I can’t explain why./ Perhaps this life will do./ Perhaps this life will have to do.” “You want to see angry?” he asks in “Chaos Magnet”; “I’ll show you angry./ Try spending a day in the life of me,/ Try fighting chaos constantly.”
Did I say “gritty”? Gritty and hopeless when faced with a life that looks dead-ended in a dead-end kind of place. But is life limited to that? No, but circumstances can make it seem as though it is, especially when booze and drugs are stirred into the mix.
Mike Watts is one of the leaders of the ThisisUll stable of poets, writers and musicians in Hull, England. You can check them out at http://www.thisisull.com/
- Of All Things
on July 10, 2011
I like the kind of poetry that draws me in, engages me and keeps me coming back again and again. Michelle Young writes that kind of poetry: Surprising, passionate, tender and in a poem about postpartum depression, as bleak as a desert of ice. I've never in my life read a poem as effective as Post Natal, even from women I've known who have suffered from it. I am chilled, but feel compassion, which is what such a poem should bring out in a reader.
Her poem The Relinquishment is the kind of poem that gets you thinking; "Dead Dogs and Dragons" is a wonderfully magical poem about childhood and memory; Let It Be a song about growing old and coming home to a recently empty house after a beloved spouse spouse has died; Blackpool Beach a moving poem about a young mother and her two sons, one of them severely handicapped.
on July 28, 2013
Dakota Douglas's "ANTics" is a delightful, scary, humorous and fast-paced adventure about three ants who find themselves chased by an evil spider named Puggy who wants to kill them and everyone in their big ant colony. it's the kind of story that would make a wonderful animated movie for kids, and the kind of movie that a lot of adults would also enjoy.
I recommend this book for anyone with children or grandchildren (or friends with children) between the ages of 7 to 9. It's a definite 5-star book.