You know the folklore -
how I assumed the force and dredge
of the river’s waters, carried
the melancholy song of one
already lost to the world,
carried along and under.
A wonder, his music was whatever
whispered through the grassy
banks that day, bittersweet
glister of love and memory.
But we were one by then -
impossible to tell form from flow,
matter from depths, as the song
becomes the singer, the singer
lost in song. We are gone,
and all that remains of that dream
dredged moment is flotsam:
the held note, an empty bottle,
this lump in the throat
as the record gives grace.
poem by Ben Wilkinson
From the thumping heartbeat of the distance runner to the roar of football terraces across the decades, Ben Wilkinson’s debut confronts the struggles and passions that come to shape a life. Beginning with an interrogation of experiences of clinical depression and the redemptive power of art and running, the collection centres on a series of vivid character portraits, giving life to some of football's legends. By turns frank, comic, sinister and meditative – ‘the trouble with you, son, is that all your brains are in your head’ – these poems uncover the beautiful game’s magic and absurdity, hopes and disappointments, as striking metaphors for our everyday dramas. Elsewhere there are tender love poems, political satire and strange dream worlds, in an urgently lyrical book of poems that take many forms and modes of address: pantoum, sonnet, sestina; epistle, confession, dramatic monologue. All are united by a desire to speak with searching clarity about matters of the heart. Way More Than Luck is a book that shows how pain often comes to define our happiness; how we keep on in a world of chance, uncertainty and change.
The beautiful game inspires some beautiful poems in Ben Wilkinson's terrific debut collection Way More Than Luck, but there's far more than football to focus on here. For Jung, Liverpool was the pool of life and this book is full of life too; politically astute, well-made and formally experimental poems celebrate even its sadness in fresh language, natural rhythms and subtle music. Wilkinson is, of course, also a well-known critic and writers he admires inform and are honoured in these pages, their various parts given unity by carefully-developed themes and imagery all served up with relish and humour. This makes for a very pleasurable as well as absorbing read that we are way more than lucky to have in one volume.
-- Ian Duhig
Due from Seren Books in early 2018.
In my poem 'Graft', the opening line is just a bit of reported speech. Something I heard said a while ago, by someone who'd never run competitively before, and who figured - or maybe just hoped - that athletes must stick with the sport because it gets easier over time. The truth of course, as any dedicated runner knows, is that it never gets any easier. Just faster. From there, the poem picks up the idea and runs with it. Where do our assumptions about success come from? Our dismissals of achievement? Why bother with anything that comes easily? What is it to run, to compete, and why do we exhaust ourselves and define ourselves by this pursuit?
first published in METER #02, published by Tracksmith. Poem forthcoming in Way More Than Luck, due from Seren Books in February 2018.