Featured poet – David Wilson

Autumn’s here. The leaves are turning and the nights are drawing in, and I’m reminded of something Zoe Walkington said to me a couple of years ago, which is that poetry is a winter sport. So, I’m trying to devote a bit of time each evening to my chosen ‘sport’. Tonight I’ve decided it’s time to do the blog, featuring the work of David Wilson. It’s hard to believe that David’s poems aren’t available as a pamphlet yet, but they will be soon, as you’ll see below.

David Wilson was brought up in North London but has lived and worked in Harrogate for most of his life.  He works Madonnafreelance as an executive coach and describes himself as an intermittent writer. He had a well-received novel, Love and Nausea, published by Abacus, Little Brown in the 1990s, and was also commissioned to write a film treatment for the book, though this didn’t make it into production.  An interest in poetry was triggered by reading Midsummer, Tobago, by Derek Walcott, on the wall of a hospital waiting room in Leeds.  He’s been writing poetry for the past five years, though each poem feels like starting again from scratch. He’s particularly valued the support of Peter and Ann Sansom and wrote his first poem (since the age of seven) at an open Poetry Business workshop.

Favourite poems over the past year have included the early poems of Les Murray, for their brilliant lyricism and originality (e.g. Spring Hail, The Incendiary Method and An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow), and Kei Miller’s The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, for its dramatic structure, narrative drive, and spiritual and historical richness.

David has had a lifelong interest in outdoor sports, especially mountaineering, rock climbing and windsurfing. He’s climbed all over the place, including Derbyshire,  Scotland, the Alps,  East Africa and the Himalayas. He’s exploring climbing in his poetry writing. What writing and climbing have in common is adventure, an open frontier, not knowing quite how things will turn out.

He’s in no particular rush to publish, and, looking back, he’s glad he didn’t try to publish too soon. That said, he has a forthcoming pamphlet with Smith/Doorstop and a first collection with Cinnamon – when the poems are good enough. This year he won the Poets and Players competition and was runner up in the Buxton Festival competition, judged respectively by Paul Muldoon and Helen Mort.


“I love you”

Mariko, please be aware that,
as with Watashi, Ore, Atashi,
there are many different
characters for the pronoun ‘I’.

It might be the id, or ego,
the lyric ‘I’, or an ‘I’ later
disowned as drunk, divided,
or still to find itself.

Perhaps better simply to say ‘love’,
a state without subject or object,
like the opening cherry blossom
in your classic poem with no title.

“I love you” (2)

My parents didn’t use this phrase,
talked in terms of work to do, and weather
and how they were bringing us up;
despite whispered rows at night
stayed together, held in place by good form.
They were not much given to using ‘I’.

Near the end, my father asked a nurse
to bring my waiting mother
to the side-room of his suffering,
having taken ten minutes to stand up
straight, always the military man,
nearly losing his balance.

One has to be brave at a time like this,
he said, taking her hand,
Some things must be done alone.
And then, Thank you for loving me.
A slight bow and turn, while she cried
in the voice of a young girl
‘Oh my darling’.


Once it was Chomolungma,
Mother Goddess of the Earth,alps this summer 3
a face whose veil rarely lifted,
its whiteness the White Whale’s.

Now it’s like Elvis near the end,
a giant in a soiled jumpsuit,
blank, useful for percentages,
a sheet from which the music’s fled.

The Slab

The slab tilted up for five hundred feet or more.
Slate-grey, with veins of white quartz, it lay
in an amphitheatre of rock, split by gullies
that oozed and dripped. All afternoon I’d sat,
waiting by the green lake at the slab’s foot
for the last climbers to coil their ropes and leave
so I might take on the slab unseen,
the protagonist in my own drama
or making a fool of myself alone.

I tightened my suede kletterschue,
slung borrowed rope around my neck,
lifted my arms and touched the rock,
in shadow but warm still from late sun.
The mountains held their breath.
It was time, my time, to make my move
and be gone, time to reach for the small flake
I’d studied for hours, to curl fingers round it,
place my boot on the quartz edge and climb,
the slab flowing beneath me, offering its holds,
unrolling in an almost-blur of moving up till
I was higher than the roof of our house,
the science block at school, the church spire,
moving up and up, the lake below shrinking
to a single calm eye. It was time,

as it would be time that night to walk
to the edge of heavy-scented pines
where no artificial light could be seen,
and give thanks to mountains
who’d been generous that day,
and look up at stars fiercer and brighter
than I’d known, pressing down, breathing in,
breathing out, daring me to believe.


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