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This review is taken from PN Review 250, Volume 46 Number 2, November - December 2019.

Cover of My Reef My Manifest Array
Ian BrintonRest in Motion
John Wilkinson, My Reef My Manifest Array (Carcanet) £12.99;
John Wilkinson, Lyric in Its Times (Bloomsbury Academic) £90
The thirty-three poems of the sequence ‘Bodrugan’s Leap’ form the central section of John Wilkinson’s most recent publication of his poetry. The title of the sequence refers to a moment in 1487 when Sir Henry Bodrugan, pursued for treason, leapt from a Cornish clifftop into a waiting boat that took him to France. As we are informed on the back cover, the totemic image of exile ‘feeds an interest in borders and partings that runs through the collection’.

Language stands at the threshold of visibility and words are themselves a leap into space. Just as we end at our skin, encased in mortality, our words are thrust out into air, a lyric pulse where ‘vacancy overcomes these ruses of / navigation’. Words in John Wilkinson’s poetry,
jump from broken turf to where a dinghy
writhes on shoulders
of a deep-dyed
but trustworthy sea, a boat that shudders,

tense for his plunging onto its thin planks –

It is in the ten chapters of Lyric in Its Times, which had begun life as a group of essays and a seminar series about lyric poems as objects and events, that Wilkinson reminds us of another jumping ‘from broken turf’ with the poetic and visual tradition of metamorphosis haunting the Western tradition: transformations from human to stone, tree, plant or animal. These words in turn bring to mind those of the critic Jeremy Noel-Tod when he reviewed an earlier Wilkinson collection, Lake Shore Drive, for The Guardian over ten years ago. Noting how Wilkinson’s poems ...


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