Mariscat Press, 2007 - £5.00

The first poem in this handsomely produced chapbook, ‘Maxims’, starts off walking on the sunny side of the street, and ends up “smiling in the dark”, and that neatly encapsulates what follows—Wilson’s always well aware of the pain that exists in close proximity to love, and he’s not one to paint things a rosier hue than they deserve, but he recognizes hope and joy when he sees them too.



Many of the poems take you back to his childhood, and one of their great strengths is the way in which they capture a child’s voice without sounding mawkish or sentimental. ‘Oh Boy!’, ‘New Year 1957’ and ‘This Ward’ all impress, with their clear-eyed memories never tipping over into mere nostalgia—but it’s the book’s title poem that stands out. Its four pages of free verse use straightforward, natural language to evoke all sorts of childhood feelings—innocence, fear, freedom (of the imagination, above all) and the desire for knowledge—before bringing things back to the present day with:



We are the paper

boys and girls, managing to laugh at things

sometimes, managing a glimpse of thin green

morning, avoiding the hand that reaches up

from the stairwell’s fire to stroke, to squeeze, to crush.



Elsewhere, Wilson shows he can write fine formal verse, too. ‘A Politician Explains’ and ‘And Now, The Sport’, are excellent pantoums, with the repetition perfectly suiting the subject matter (politicians’ evasions and footballers’ inanities, respectively) rather than feeling like technical exercises, and the sonnets are subtle and well-crafted.


But things come to a close with ‘Then’, a return to childhood remembrances, and a perfect showcase for Wilson’s knack of painting little word pictures. When he writes:



Library quiet—

the rubber date-stamp

adds a fortnight:

all the time in the world

to live another’s life



you get the impression that’s a feeling that has stayed with him intact.



Matt Merritt