July 8, 2010

John Wilkinson


John Wilkinson [England]
1953

John Wilkinson was born in London, England; he grew up on the Cornish coast and on Dartmoor and endured a number of boarding schools. He read English at Cambridge, followed by graduate work at Cambridge and Harvard universities. Subsequently he trained as a psychiatric nurse and worked as a nurse, social worker and service manager in and around Birmingham, England, before moving to Swansea in South Wales as a lecturer in mental health. Thereafter he worked in the East End of London as a commissioner of mental health services, an assistant director of public health and a mental health strategic planner, while living for the most part in Cambridge.
In 2005 he moved to the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, as Poet in Residence at the Keough Institute for Irish Studies, and teaches both literature and creative writing for the English department. He is married to Maud Ellmann, an academic and literary critic.

Most of Wilkinson’s poetry has been collected in five volumes: Oort’s Cloud, Proud Flesh, Flung Clear, Effigies Against the Light and Contrivances. His new collection is Lake Shore Drive, published by Salt in 2006. He has published many reviews and essays on poetics.

Wilkinson’s grants and awards include the Chancellor’s Medal for an English Poem at Cambridge University, the Frank Knox Memorial Fellowship at Harvard University and recently a Fulbright Distinguished Scholarship at the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, New York in 2003-4. ‘The Shoal of the Ditto Ship’ was written during this last period when living in Manhattan, and was influenced by an exhibition at the American Folk Art Museum of the work of Adolph Wölfi.

John Wilkinson’s work has been discussed as Cambridge poetry, Birmingham poetry and recently as Welsh poetry. This publication marks its debut as American poetry. Meanwhile he is pleased to be an honorary Irishman at the Keough, and looks forward to further identities.


BOOKS OF POETRY

Useful Reforms (Richmond, Surrey, England: Arnica Press, 1976); Aquamarie (Cambridge, England: Avocado Salad, 1976); The Central Line (Cambridge, England: infernal methods, 1976); Tracts of the Country (London: Oasis Books, 1977); Pornography (Cambridge, England: Sidon Industrial, 1977); Recent History (London and Southampton: infernal methods, 1978); Mudie’s Umbrella (Horsham, Sussex, England: The Cuseway Press, 1978); Clinical Notes (Liverpool: Délires, 1980); Proud Flesh (Liverpool: Equofinaly, Łodz, and Délires: Liverpool, 1986 / reprinted by Great Wilbraham: Salt Publisher, 2005); Bones of Contention (Kenilworth, England: Prest Roots, 1988); The Speaking Twins (Peterborough: Spectacular Diseases, 1990); Stages Along the Lichway (Lewes, England: Silver Hounds/Ferry Press, 1991); The Nile (Cambridge, England: Equipage, 1992); Torn off a Strip (Cambridge, English, 1994); Chalone (Kenilworth, England: Prest Roots, 1994); Flung Clear: Poems in Six Books (Brighton: Parataxis Editions, 1994); Sarn Helen (Cambridge, England: Equipage, 1997); Reverses (Cambridge, England: 1999); Oort’s Could, Earlier Poems (Cambridge, England: Barque Press and Honolulu: subpress, 1999); Effigies Against the Light (Great Wilbraham, England: Salt Publishing, 2001); Signs of an Intruder (Cambridge, England: Parataxis Editions, 2001); Contrivances (Great Wilbraham, England: Salt Publishing, 2003); Iphigenia (London: Barque Press, 2004); Lake Shore Drive (Great Wilbraham, England Salt Publisher, 2006)


Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English
2005-2006



The Shoal of the Ditto Ship
for Miles Champion

One day he'll wake with wings

Or fixed gaze in vitro intro-
spects, centipeded they get tied
up through reefs, or riffing
smattered off the obtuse bulk
cast away legless, their cousin
vaguely wagged, illuminated
pillows of puff, much touch
dodges being dwelt-on or
arrived-at Must I peel or empty?
Teflon Ted Whatever you say
dangles like a benediction.
Twinkletoes, your scarlessness
locks the scarlet under skin,
as shame were that shame
brought up to its own mark,
then all is trussed & shut,
sealed off like a marshmallow
butterfingered bare choir. Reef
Tom to arrive at certainty,
veer not, shy off or scatter,
vent not the stacks imbibing
vapour sustenance, would
these package deal finickers
down within the voided grates,
cap them, since their terminus,
playing to their divisions,
plugs the too-routine leaks.
This mush dons his quizzical,
this plate gurns, Robert this
Meissen figure, peregrinating
slashes in my baked Alaska,
periodic or wedge flume
carbon remnant, primus inter
pares cloaks in citizenship
Coney Island Russian taxi,
Chinese pin-pursed laundress
TriBeCa Bridge? Your ID!
The order stops the tracks of
fleet Helvetians, Swiss pixies
mobilising legs with dream,
discourage cramp, patch nerves
euplastically, re-set their bones.
Leaning from her saddle, wee
Titania can bestow a blessing,
dabbing dry the dropsical,
easing crooks if struck rigid,
draws down the flues, follows
into the cold-box or cream
bowl, horseflies in harness
tugging behind The Upsetter.
Clip Clop Clippity Clippity Hi:
deer tics bring lime disease,
mosquitoes siphon West Nile.
Clip Clop Clippity Clippity Hi:
fireflies bale their thistledown
bolsters, mop up leftovers,
squall bruising cloud edges,
cobalt-skirt their huff & puff
flushes chimneys, vaccinates
household staff, hauls along
Maria, Li, Primrose, Naomi,
Sam¹s personal trainer, kids
at school you were dwarfed by
were shaken by a choice phrase
filling a salience landscape;
penguins of your cloud buttes,
behind-the-arras prompters
cracking their tush knuckles
shrink flaunted words to size,
bearing up too-complicated
knees in alcoves, squinnying
heaps of bone, a coffin clutch
of gladsome bone mounted
on his pillow, femurs guide
the galumphing litho press
mashing its diacritical trickle.
Girl you really got me now
You got me so I can't die.
The ravenous ghosts constrict
thin pipes with sucking-up,
craving eats from his big toe
looming over a fire-ant army
O fallen arches O articulacy!
a kick in the hand stubs a bush,
fiddle-faddle strewn-about
pudency stamp. You're too rude
you rake, you fop, you mohawk,
you with your fab nose-bone.
Luke reeling at such vileness,
stashes books on a hearthstone
overnight, in hemp baloney,
cleans up his act & itemises:
Gilgamesh perks up on cue,
Ulysses as per usual curious,
Malmude packing his boxes
for the proverbial little press.
The inner cerecloth shrinks
chaldean, root-fanned stylus
pokes into these roe deposits,
gripped in icy fingers ticks
micro-level duplicates How
can they endure the light,
these vulnerable figures? How
did glaciers wobble like airships?
chains pup a consequence?
leave no stain on its envelope?
misfolded, misfolded, proof
against tears, against semen,
paid in full but fallen short,
capturing a torpid substrate
prickling where the low cloud
muzzles against their moss-
sopped cocoons against the sky,
misfolded to indestructibility,
glitching up the brain stem.
None of the above applies
None of the above follows
without receptor sites signal
strapping their cuneiform,
vaporise through mesh, honey
welling between their wires,
evenly eventless dropper filled
but long in the tooth, bony,
scribbled like a slut tornado
searches for its porch & picket.
Do I see Johnny Appleseed?
Was that my casual gunslinger
reels on the deck with kuru,
holding forth & misfolded,
sought to expiate his triggers,
triggers of the small mercies?
A novel variant stirs the rank
antibodies, you must be you,
snails, smearing, butt-naked,
visibly, despicably ambitious,
hauls over the icecap its satchel
stuffed with props to scale
Just add water, quietly steam
while the felt thickens, furs,
buckles in intelligent tucks
promise you'll look beautiful,
promise an eyeful gratifies
Scottie's scopophilia, minions
crushed by the saint system,
stripped by Lilliputians,
bring me my Negroni, swoosh!
Clouds mouth a new dawn,
records skate, a sumptuous
troop, refolding tallied initials,
promenades across the whole-
earth mercator. Avenue A
clouds gush vodka, vivid
pangs chase after shredded fish,
roast guinea pigs & tripe:
Felipe, I'll have your selection,
the polymerised sweet cells
defend their right to adapt!
animate the dynastic pods,
leprechauns, a flea circus
climbing a prandial trapeze,
ribbons & spirals, lamellae,
locusts & the leaf-cutter ants,
defend their right to adapt!
Slurping at dab nectar, woozy
comforters fall, denied access
by these fibrous bunches
spongiform at base hey,
you trying to stick your nose
Know what's coming to you?
Say you pass the horseradish
clockwise while at home?
Insolent to waiters? Get lost!
Ouch! ouch! An apt little hound
rounds up misdeeds in flocks,
water thickens with tadpole-
dense performances, frogs
are hopping on marked paths.
Leander swims, Meander strays,
the very trout who gasped
for oxygen in a stock-pond,
wallow on the sludgy floor.
Clip Clop Clippity Clippity Hi
puts spurs into the cladogram,
dispersing those top dogs
long solitude had made weird
Like a lemur. Or a marsupial
frolics onto a new reserve,
a positive fit, a vacuum seal,
a win-win trade. So why do
shrunken heads find boughs
peeking out of the manholes,
did crowbars & indigenes
blow the cover rising to cover
the cover I cover myself,
unscarred cover with scarlet,
steal the proto-immersible,
insinuate this endoscope?
authorise the brain scan?
I was a rush of released mice,
roaches from under the sink
advancing through Sullivan St,
milling towards a hot ticket
cupcake, where¹s Vesuvio?
That brass tocsin animates
the grave-figures, bony fringe
defiling out, nano-machines
rafting the capillaries, rush
to rows appointed, terror tots
pullulate in their gung ho.
Bees swarm from Broadway.
Michelangelo. Minihaha. Blink.
Pictures of matchstick men
& me & me & me. Ticklish
midget submariners giggle.
Fireflies whirr. The pestilent
cockchafers, shrunk to tiny
whisks gad round the sewers,
household gods gape & gulp,
emulsify where sore necks &
sumps lift up their gates, O
helicobacters mass in the gut
like Apocalypse Next. Meet
Princess Bianca. Magdalehna.
Cut. Shut this trap, mother.
Consider the hands shake.
Consider this shaking hand.
Mine re-strap, thought-over,
others pull in adverse ranks,
some more habit-spatulate
from days & nights tunnelling,
skirted round or blew apart,
screwed sinuses or undercut:
these subverting their class,
that dumbcluck I had drabbled
lurking to buttonhole me,
came bushy-tailed if whistled
forward, wrenching my lapels,
brought all kinds of baggage.
Palsied hands. Featherbrain.
Chills, cracks. Frost ossuary
Dark place where seven roads
resurfaced. Kiln. Or broiler.
I am the god of hell's cold
fracturing the shut-down
grate, lithium console calms,
smoke like an iced margarita
quenched the chimney roar,
their camisole stood legless,
bones laid out to feed the fire
devastated, sparked a sub-
zero disaster, frozen gushers
flaring back to cloud cover,
flaring round the polar vault,
snapped in a cold clamshell:
splintered were its runnels
lifting swollen tongues. Over
the hearth's slate, jumbled
quartz plectrums, carved ivory,
burnt corks, pipe dottle of
gone companions, vagabonds,
boozed, spat, freely caroused
below the roof-tree, DNA-
analysed chattels, bony shards,
shades of powerful clothing,
room is right, curse in order,
amulet & gold brooch check,
your details have been verified.
To such a desecrated altar
decorators prance, slubbing
plaster over the pancreator,
fret walls in pernickety grids,
crematorium pigeon holes:
To this end, to this zilch,
the great cheese, the sponge,
a destroyed coral collective
petrifies anew its every unit
incubates local pathogens:
Clip Clop Clippity Clippity Hi/
egg cartons hatch by module,
sash windows rattle tinnily,
sheets of cellular wax bulge
each with a miniature nob
thrust half-way out, squishy,
pinky-grey & ready to slide
about its tumefacient work
going down to alphabet street,
white boys cruising sidewalks
jut their hips, the parasites,
dark shadees, parodies, trans-
formers, topers, those fore-
runners snacking on decoded
Pekinese, Peruvian bites,
Babylon perchance or Sumer
Check their chiselled teeth.
Verify the funerary figures,
terracotta sightless, armless,
faceless comedia of excess,
the whole shebang, the circus
marches out of a mausoleum:
Here the autobots shall dock,
senseless, gold-connected, clad
in memory-woven denim,
dishes bright, whips aquiver,
scout above eye-level, sweep.
Here advance the autobots,
exiled from a bright matrix,
gathered in choice skin, dis-
avowed but in chameleon
lock with the old regiment
spirting gravel, grating nerves,
crank till a cylinder aligns,
wriggle on prepared sheaths.
I, I'm just a little tin soldier.
Walkin' talkin' livin' plug.
Needles & pins. Neologisms.
A mensch on a bender, Jack
on an even keel, shameless,
shambling like an autobiotic
through a fuckpad boneyard,
remedied in shreds & patches
burns out of the marrow.
You, Scarbo! You, Ondine!
Consuela, mollusc was your
foul mouth & your kindness
jabbering on my private bits,
Augustus, your melodica
ricochets but courses through
the massive resistant sheets,
Moran, the night has no parts,
that's because you're asleep,
the fate of the crew of the
Alioth waits to be disclosed,
shaken from its bubble tissue,
seraphic heads blow shanties
smart as paint, & briskly
shine their epaulettes, medals
paving their hearts, crunch!
splinter under the die-stamp,
suborned swords of elves
hack vehemently where fringe
solder, shaving the spilt tin,
palsies down like beer-tops.
Panda-eyed the cherubs blub
all over semi-demi-hemis,
tonsured bobble heads each
sailor hallmarked with his year,
circular scrolling calendar
predicts little volcanoes, shock-
wave oceans & the hesperides,
blue cascades of numerology
sluicing over the span, men
& women cropped & slotted
each in her cellular conclave,
the way we expect love to be,
reverberates, a leaden cavalry
decorated, bodhisattvas,
pure land guardians practice
circular breathing, lit mandala
starts spinning, its imp-chain
of blue bone, sore distended
stomachs & necks squeeze,
battering fans like cockchafers,
whirring gods. Bones, dust,
millipedes in a single cohort,
amulets endowed with multi-
access, nub-end top-knot
yogic flights rehearse, sponsor
an ethereal choir of gnats:
Clip Clop Clippity Clippity Hi,
the clog dance of caterpillars
avid for internal burn & crawl.
Of heldness and of caresses you
have become the entrepreneur.
Inside me was this longing
which did not belong. Nests
of beetles stir, jewel-like frogs.

____
Reprinted from Free Verse, no. 8 (Spring 2005). Copyright ©2005 by John Wilkinson.

To read Wilkinson's Gertrude Stein award poem from 2008-2009, click below:

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