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Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Poem By Hamish Wilson

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome major British poet Hamish Wilson (pictured) to these pages this day. Wilson was born in 1958, and educated at Oxford, Cambridge and London Metropolitan universities. As a child he suffered from night fears, but his brothers made that go away, as he writes in his poem "Mind Robbers".

Wilson is one of the leading exponents of the "Light Bulb Makars" school, which, in the last few years, has become so influential on these isles. In his dour, sometimes grumpy, and often brilliantly dazzling reviews for the major papers (and BBC radio), Wilson has attacked any poetry which "uses language like frippery, like a girl's pink ribbon" and denounced "the fake makers, the fun-havers".

For Wilson, poetry is "science - and not just science - rigorous making, like hammering a sawblade back into shape after it has been bent by a fool." Wilson names his heroes as "Yvor Winters and Adam Smith", and bases much of his anti-rhetorical stance on Smith's own belles lettres lectures and the works of Popper. "Popper got it basically right," he's written in his study Sharp Vision: How To Write Poetry True To Experience.

Wilson has had three collections published, Break Bright Windows (1994), The Mind Robbers (2000) and, in 2007, his multi-award-winning Ovid In Scilly (2007). Indeed, Wilson has won all the prizes that the UK has to offer poets of his kind, often twice, sometimes three times. His proudest achievement is The Wallace Stevens Prize. He has also been the judge of all the leading prizes.

He is also an active editor - of poets, non-fiction writers (he favours salmon fishing books, and works on atomic physics) and novelists, all winners of prizes. He has put together the astonishingly rigorous anthology Lean Young Mean, which celebrates his belief that poetry is best written "by young men without fat on them, men fighting trim, men who think God is a sissy, and Dylan Thomas weak-minded." Drawing inspiration from Horace, then Hardy, then Larkin, he's written "Christ may be dead, but Homer was a Scotsman." His ideal poem is "clear as piss-water, clearer, like ice in a fist" and warns that "to read a poem is to engage in mud-wrestling with Lucretius."

He's also said "there's only one or two poets now writing of any worth." Not everyone agrees. Bjorn K. Bernstein, a leading avant-garde writer, has described Wilson as "a boob who thinks words are meant to mean, not buzz". The title poem, below, is in his trademark style, the "postmodern double-sonnet". Enjoy the genius.

Ovid In Scilly

No poems about makers -
making is more precise,
makes snow
look like ice
in a glass of Scotch.
Scotch that, break
the glass,
it is too colourful,
and creation, like space
should be dark, clear,
and not stuttered
like a signing, a bed
with stars, with oodles
of unheimlich fakers.

Mind robbers,
poets with words,
here, in wind and rain
I prefer to commence
again, unheard,
stark as an iron filing,
a central nail,
burrowed in the brain
of a lean young man
who shuns pastry;
whose sense of scansion
is less expansive
than a nun's
in a vast, erudite mansion.

poem by Hamish Wilson
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