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Oorts Cloud: Earlier Poems: John Wilkinson

Oorts Cloud: Earlier Poems
John Wilkinson

Ripped from surveillance: a last line from a first book now a quarter-century old marks out the pathway of disinheritance which John Wilkinson has blazed ever since. Here that first, final look takes us past Useful Reforms and on, through Prior to Passage to Sweetness and Light, backslicing many others both included and absent, from Maudie's Umbrella to Ondine's Curse, dispersed to the outer/inner band of Oort's Cloud in a kaiserschnitt of sovereign dismemberment. The titles have and say it: whatever is grand in parturition, the dream of failing. For England, now, John Wilkinson is the poet of dispossession.

Contents: 1: Get Set; 2: from The Central Line; 3: from Tracts of the Country; 4: Sweet-Balsam Leaves; 5: Opening Stages; 6: Back to the Audience; 7: Prior to Passage; 8: Marginal Analysis; 9: Lighting-Up Time; 10: Air Fleet Base

£10.00, 208pp, ISBN 978-0-9666303-3-6, 1999

Author Biography

John Wilkinson was born in London in 1953. He grew up in Cornwall & Devon before reading English at Cambridge. He passed a year at Harvard working on the poetry of John Wieners, thereafter training as a psychiatric nurse. John has worked as Head of Mental Health and Assistant Director of Public Health at East London & The City Health Authority.  During 2003-4 John was attached to the Center for the Study of Issues in Public Mental Health, New York, as a Fulbright Scholar.  He is now an associate professor at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. John is married to the literary critic Maud Ellman. His writing is collected in Contrivances (Salt, 2003), Effigies Against the Light (Salt, 2001), Oorts Cloud (Barque, 1999), Flung Clear (Parataxis 1994), Proud Flesh (Délires and Equofinality 1986) and Clinical Notes (Délires 1980).

An interview with Wilkinson by Andrew Duncan is published in Angel Exhaust.

More about John Wilkinson»


from 'Sweetness & Light':


Over the handrail sky a blue desert droops unshuttered
He's quite a character who pockets his staked preserve
without flash
xwho can be shaken, despite
not an ace between the statuary & lip at the gale's mercy
pipping his nest of arms, his yellow arms
foil against the snow his opinions
carefeully tilting the last yolk in, preparing to fold
xBut deep in the valley mass, amidst
& the cricket motorways genuflect to the cameo love she
pins the knot with

It's worth bearing in mind the accident was intrinsically
off-centre, insofar as it poleaxed the vehicle involved
Course the reef-knot bluges to have a deck
classified ads walk bitchily to the dockland great fire
I had a gift for you a selection
xNone of them tempts? Too bad
Can I take it back or stop you
xdirty-handing your rag to me
I think I've got you nailed
If the nails don't take how shall I know where I am?
gripping the cutlery in my fist, swagging her infant, this

when I've worked up a lather, for back to tonight it
xwasn't to be undermined but toppled
the first intensities
xpitching forward, then as the fall
leaves ferment
its fibres ripen, are not replaced
xin its ribs a skinny fist clenches more tightly
Plastic studs on the entry ramp
sheer the ferrules of light aluminium sticks, imperilled
already by milk cartons & spilt kitchen plastic bags

we'll spot where I'm not when my get-up gets up & stops.

But it would be possible to regard this as an interchange
where the suet city impedes its flow, the exodus
on pre-release no pulped gold

xExeunt omnes, going for bust

xWe rest on the skyline balcony our elbows



On Effigies Against the Light: “This book by one of the most intellectually demanding and politically engaged of contemporary English poets, suggests that the differences between some versions of modernism and postmodernism might be nil. The political content of Wilkinson’s work distinguishes it from the xenophobic high modernism of the English tradition. The section “Chalone” at the start of the book begins with an examination of the continuing legacy of the plantation system; where some moderns mourn the coming of modernity, Wilkinson (in “Reserved”) admonishes us to “watch things spring apart, &/ know with a blank chill/ they ought to.” Yet Wilkinson also refuses a reactionary postmodernism that simply spits capital’s fetishes back at it: “Here is amber, here is pitch to smear your arms, salve lips,/ tallow to stuff resounding ears. You stand like flypaper./ You hold a trowel & with it you daub every lost saying.” Though bombarded, linguistically and otherwise, Wilkinson’s speaker continues to self-construct, rather than destruct.” --Publishers Weekly

“The speed of this writing, its kinetic movement “like a run-time virus”, derives from the extraordinary scope of its inclusions. This is not the low-risk inclusiveness of semiotic playtime, but the propagation of strings of significance among the resistant data of moment and location. Difficult of access, but no less difficult of egress, the poetry in this volume makes unflinching demands on the reader, demands that repay slowly but in abundance. Reader, I was crushed and exhilarated.” --Jeremy Green, Chicago Review

“Some of Wilkinson’s poems still seem to me like white noise, like information rapidly and promiscuously flooding my attention; but I do not believe that they will necessarily continue to. Others do offer me precisely that sense of the bearing, the bearable and the beautiful; and although, for good reasons, that state is almost untranscribable, and not automatically reproducible in identical fashion for every reader, it is something one looks for in art, and is privileged to encounter.” --Robert Potts, The Guardian

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