Scrimshaw, Jean Watkins’ first collection, is named after the carvings made by 19th century sailors and brought home as souvenirs. On whale tusks, bone or shells, their images were often of ships and spouting whales.

Her poems explore the spectrum of family relationships, the creativity of craft workers and artists, as well as benign or savage aspects of the natural world. A native Briton sees Roman glassmaking; a drug addict sleeps in a cardboard box; the poet and a fox make eye contact for precious seconds, and their poems capture them in time.

About the author:
Jean Watkins was born in West Yorkshire and has lived in Reading for many years. She gained a BA in English from the University of Reading in 2001. Her poems have been published in Mslexia, Magma, South, The Sunday Telegraph and many anthologies. She reads regularly at Reading’s Poets’ Café and at venues further afield.

This collection is part of Two Rivers Press’s ‘First Collection Series’:
The First Collection Series was launched in 2012 to provide an opportunity for emerging poets, already visible on the reading circuit or in pamphlet form, to have a debut, self-contained statement collaboratively shaped, edited, designed and published.

These are poems with all their senses on alert. Precise and subtle in their music, the narratives in Scrimshaw build a rich and delicate world of personal feeling and history through the most acute kind of observation. Through it all, like the birds in the beautiful “Migratory”, flies the “dark strand scarcely seen” – dipping, reappearing, almost invisible.’ – Jane Draycott

Whether Watkins is championing the artisan – the workers of wood, glass and clay – shining a light on the smallness of the everyday, or turning her keen eye on the natural world, she does so with absolute skill and a deft balance of idea and language. The poems in Scrimshaw are never overplayed: their soft touch aches with absence; they sing with truth and fire.’ – Allison McVety

From this collections:

The Embrace
Robert Gibbings, 1889-1958. Sculpture Gallery, Reading Museum.

From cold stone feel the heat of lovers’ fire,
where, in a sinuous trance, two bodies curl.
He holds her close, one hand under her hair,
one on her thigh. Arced back, their forms dovetail;
her arm is raised, one breast in his arm’s crook
and both have closed their eyes, as scent and touch
drown out all else. They have no need to look,
abandoned as they are to passion’s clutch.

Outside the window a fine net is spread
over a quadrangle. Two birds lie there;
so ragged, hunched and still they’re clearly dead,
so close they might have been a mating pair.
Impossible to say if these two doves
became entangled in the coils of love.




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