From online encyclopedia OPENTOPIA:
R. W. Watkins is a poet and independent publisher who resides in Newfoundland, Canada.
He is the author of two volumes of poetry, October Twilight (2004) and New England Country Farmhouse (2005), and the publisher and editor of Contemporary Ghazals, Contemporary Sijo, and Cellar. He has published in several journals throughout Canada and the U.S., and was the only Canadian included in Agha Shahid Ali's Ravishing DisUnities, the world's first anthology of English-language ghazals.
Robert William Watkins was born in the 1970's, and displayed an interest in comics, literature and music from a very young age. By the time he finished high school, he was writing "a jazzy, erotic free verse" derived from Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jim Morrison and Dylan Thomas.
As a university student, Watkins studied English literature under the man generally regarded as Newfoundland's greatest living poet, Tom Dawe, who introduced him to the haiku. Watkins also helped turn out low budget poetry and anarchist zines with future alternative rock musician Kent Burt of The Linger Effect.
In 1995 Watkins was 'discovered' by prominent American tanka and haiku poet Jane Reichhold. Subsequently, Watkins's first appearance in an American publication was the poem "October Twilight", in a 1996 issue of Reichhold's Lynx. The work incorporated references to murder, sacrifice and Celtic myth (in a modern context). Watkins later expanded it in a 1997 issue of Lynx; eventually he would expand it further and October Twilight was published as a chapbook in 2004.
From his initial publication in Lynx onward, Watkins abandoned free verse and concentrated on Japanese and other Asian forms of poetry. His next notable publication was a sequence of fourteen tanka dedicated to the late pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, written in a style mimicking the earmarks of the painter's major works. The sequence was published in Lynx in late 1998. Poet Larry Kimmel has called the work a "tour de force."
It was around this same period that Watkins began giving equal attention to the ghazal--a style of Asian poetry most closely associated with Persia and the Indian subcontinent. Watkins subsequently became the only Canadian included in Agha Shahid Ali's Ravishing DisUnities (2000), the world's first anthology of ghazals composed in English. It is considered that much of the ghazal's English-language evolution after Ali's death in 2001 can be seen in or traced to the work of Watkins and fellow poet Gene Doty. Three years later Watkins launched Contemporary Ghazals, the world's first English-language poetry journal dedicated exclusively to the ghazal. It is thought to have done much to advance the Western ghazal, and publishes work by both novice and veteran practioners.
In 2003 Watkins long-time obsession with Jodie Foster's 1976 film The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane culminated in Cellar, a fanzine dedicated largely to the film and the Laird Koenig novel on which it is based. Its in-depth analysis has been described as "bordering on the obsessive-compulsive." In 2005 Watkins took his dedication one step further when he published what is probably his most controversial work, New England Country Farmhouse, a short collection of haiku based on the film and novel, with an introduction by artist and musician G.B. Jones.
Besides haiku, tanka and ghazals, Watkins has also experimented with another Asian poetic form, the Korean sijo. In 2005 he published Contemporary Sijo, a journal containing English-language examples of the form composed by himself and other poets.
Watkins also has a strong visual side. He has published several concrete haiku (a.k.a. "eyeku") in journals and zines such as Lost & Found Times and ZYX, and turns out the occasional comic strip or example of what he calls "prop art"--a combination of sociopolitical "propaganda" and "pop art", often resembling the work of Raymond Pettibon. As well, he has published 2001: A Space Haiku, a small folding broadsheet which combines collage, a haiku, and a "translation" of the same haiku into binary (so that it might be broadcasted into outer space and "read" by possible aliens). Much like mail art, Watkins randomly distributed both 2001 and his prop art to various companies and publications via the postage-paid envelopes regularly found in everyday junkmail.
Watkins has developed a reputation for being outspoken on many issues. Highly dismissive of middle class values, modern education and conspicuous consumption, he has maintained (in what is probably his most reprinted quote) that "In today's world of computer-induced illiteracy, lowest common denominators, and general 'dumbing down', it is much easier to be perceived as a genius."
In 2006 Watkins is preparing to publish a chapbook of experimental renga with his frequent collaborator Robin Tilley.
0.3 External Links
1 See also
Kinden, Randy; "Introducing The Ghazal / Introducing R. W. Watkins"; RAW NerVZ Haiku (XIV: 3), 2001; pp. 39-40
Reichhold, Jane; "Ghazal Gathering" and review of Ravishing DisUnities (Ali, Ed.); Lynx (XVI: 3--online), 2001.
Schultz, Chad (Ed.); A Soft Degrade (No. 5), 2003.
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