Proud Flesh

John Wilkinson, Author
John Wilkinson, Author Salt Publishing $14.95 (104p) ISBN 978-1-84471-065-2
Reviewed on: 09/01/2005
Release date: 09/01/2005
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This reissue of an early book by stratosphere grazing British experimental poetry stalwart Wilkinson rewards the negotiation of its evasive surfaces. While Milne writes, for instance, of ""the tension here between the projections of love lyric and the materiality of text,"" Wilkinson asks of a ""he"" in the first poem, ""Will he boil his underwear, when living in the world / where prompts are few? Do you rate his speech lucid?"" which is funny and interesting in ways the critical discourse about these lines cannot be. In another piece-all of the poems here are untitled, giving rise to questions about where one stops and the next begins, and most are cast in three- or four-line stanzas-Wilkinson writes, ""Love compels me to its dialect, love whose law / furs the imperial tongue,"" trails off, then later picks up the thread: ""& the flesh / goes out / to love what's lost and sealed, was hallowed / or erupts."" To wade through the poet's jagged syntax and shifting diction-he mixes plain speech with medical terminology and a thesaurus's worth of 50-cent words-requires suspending any desire for anything other than the momentary meaning of a line or phrase or thought. Slowly, however, it becomes clear the book strives to reinvent the love poem, in language, form and mission-peel back the scar tissue of tradition, undercut the idealization of the beloved and leave us to, as he says, ""outlove."" Wilkinson hopes these experiments result in an ""interesting failure."" There is great pleasure in watching his attempts.
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