Skip to main content


Showing posts from January, 2008

Review: Jay Bernard's your sign is cuckoo, girl

Wow. Cock-ups on the Royal Mail’s part aside, and Jay Bernard’s first pamphlet (from the peeps at Tall Lighthouse) was well worth waiting for. What I like about her poems – and what this short gathering of only fourteen demonstrates – is a young, lively and energetic voice sounding itself out, but with a musical and rhythmical conviction that demonstrates a young poet who’s well read, yet unafraid to take what she likes and make it that bit more freer, exciting and wonderfully weird. Take opener ‘Kites’:

Is it true that I was frightened of the dark?
If I sat alone and watched the shadows of the room,
it is because I stood with my ear against the wall:
the words I heard were like a corpse
beside my bed or a hole that appeared
in the centre of the moon.

That’s just the first stanza and it’s a strong, beguiling opening that unfolds into a vivid, sensual poem. Here, the ‘quiet voice’ from the poem’s narrator ‘chim[ing] through the country of […] youth’ may bear resemblance to Duffy, but ‘the man…

The Verb

For those readers who haven't heard it already, there's an interesting discussion from last week's The Verb on Radio 3, dealing with the curiousness and problems that surround unfinished writing. Presented by Ian MacMillan, it includes a handful of novelists and poet Roddy Lumsden, talking about his unfinished poem, 'Sea Air', among others. Well worth listening to if you get chance - I believe the thing's available until tomorrow @ 9pm, when the next Verb's broadcast. Link's here.

Jean Sprackland's Tilt

Alongside reviews of Frances Leviston's Public Dream and Sophie Hannah's Pessimism for Beginners, my review of Jean Sprackland's Costa Award-winning third collection, Tilt, is available, in the latest issue of Tower Poetry's Poetry Matters. You can find it here.


A new draft of a poem. As ever, comments, ideas, sugggestions etc are welcome. I'll leave it up for a day or so.

Dusk's gone now...

Glyn Maxwell

Glyn Maxwell seems an interesting and extremely varied writer of poems, and a poet I intend to read more of in the coming months, having only come across bits of his collaborations with Armitage way back in Moon Country, written when the New Gen promo packed the two off to Iceland together. But he's come to my attention recently in spotting this wonderful and inventive poem in The Guardian Review just after xmas; an impressive long poem which is by turns exhilarating and humorous, but also wonderfully rhymed and metrically well executed. But then with the following review quotes spanning his decade-and-some writing career so far, I feel like I must've been missing out on something good:

No-one treats English quite like the clapped-out motor Maxwell clearly thinks it is. He kicks it, he re-vamps it, he customizes it. He leads you up syntactic blind alleys and gets you doing semantic U-turns that leave the hair bristling - Adam Thorpe, Observer

Glyn Maxwell covers a greater distan…

Edmund Hilary and Mount Everest

Mountaineering (and more generally exploring) is something that interests me, albeit from a distance, so when I recently found out that the great New Zealand mountaineer and explorer Edmund Hilary, one of the first men to climb to the summit of Everest, had passed away, I had the idea to write a narrative poem (something I rarely do) imagining, alongside a bit of research into the facts of the expedition, his climb to the great mountain's summit. The fruits of this exercise are below. As ever, comments and suggestions are welcome. I might leave this poem up permanently.


i.m. Edmund Hillary
(mountaineer and explorer, 1919 – 2008)

[removed by author]

Published Reviews and Critical Works

I regularly review as a critic for The Guardian and The Times Literary Supplement, and occasionally for magazines including The Poetry Review.

Below is a select list of reviews that have been published to date or are forthcoming.

Guardian profile (details of all poetry reviews published in Guardian Review)

Review of Don Paterson's 40 Sonnets, Times Literary Supplement (forthcoming)

Reviews of Jack Underwood, Matthew Clegg and Greta Stoddart, Times Literary Supplement (forthcoming)

'The Three Ages of Muldoon', review of Paul Muldoon's One Thousand Things Worth Knowing, Poetry Review, Vol. 105 No. 1, Spring 2015

Review of Don Paterson: Contemporary critical essays, ed. Natalie Pollard, Times Literary Supplement 13 February 2015

'Dream Testicles and Memphis Guilt', review of Mark Strand's Almost Invisible and Don Share's Union, Poetry Review Vol. 104 No. 1, Spring 2014

Review of Nick Laird's Go Giants, The Edinburgh Review

'A case of After', review…

Forthcoming Readings

Sheffield Hallam University presents: MA Masterclass: Ben Wilkinson and Suzannah Evans - TBC December 2018 @ Sheffield Hallam City Campus, Sheffield S1

Poets & Players presents: Ben Wilkinson and John Glenday + musicians (TBC) -  Saturday 15 September 2018, 2.30-4.30pm @ Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester

Seren Books presents: First Thursdays: Ben Wilkinson, Ross Cogan, Dan Tyte + open mic - Thursday 5th July 2018, 7.30-9.30pm @ Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, Wales

Live Literature presents: poet Ben Wilkinson launches his collection Way More Than Luck, with a reading from Suzannah Evans - Monday 27th February 2018, 6.30-8pm @ Bolton Central Library, Main Theatre, BL1 1SN

 South Yorkshire Poetry Festival presents: Ben Wilkinson, Kayo Chingonyi, Kei Miller and Liz Berry - Saturday 23rd May 2015, 3.30pm @ Creative Lounge, The Workstation (opposite The Hubs), Sheffield S1

Liverpool John Moores University Poetry Reading Series presents: Ben WilkinsonThursday 5th March 2015, 7pm-10pm @ 81 Re…

The Sparks (Tall-Lighthouse, November 2008)

The Sparks, Tall-Lighthouse, £4. ISBN 978-1-904551-56-0



In The Sparks, Ben Wilkinson meets a dark world with a light touch. These are poems of the city in the night and a young man's place at its heart. Even when the poems move out from an urban focus, it is to a rural world of missing walkers and lurking cars, a shifting pitch-black beach or a black-misted sea where trawlers roll like beasts. But the dark is lit by sparks of electricity, glowing cigarettes and a strange sun recalled from childhood. These are neat and clever poems.

Poems from this publication previously appeared in Blackbox Manifold, Magma, Other Poetry, Poetry London, Poetry Review, The Frogmore Papers, The London Magazine, and the Times Literary Supplement.

The Sparks is poetry responsive to the elemental layers that underscore the material sheen of our early twenty-first century. It is the work of a poet s…