FOR FREE VIEWING/DOWNLOADING OF PDFS OF BOTH MY NEW SELECTED POEMS (WOODBINE PRESS) AND NEW COLLECTED POEMS 1952 – 1012 (KARDOORAIR PRESS) SEE THE LAST PARAGRAPH OF THIS SECTION, JUST BEFORE THE SUB-HEADING OF WOODBINE PRESS
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At Mullumbimby primary school Bill Bouveret read us the verse of Henry Lawson and ‘Banjo’ Patterson, and this world was all around us. At the age of ten I’d written my first poem (‘My Bike’), at a time when children were certainly not encouraged to do such things. I’d recited a selection of my own poems at the 1954 Wardell Primary School Christmas Tree, precocious brat that I must have been. My Wilson grandmother was in the audience as I recall, looking equally proud and embarrassed at the same time.
My English teacher, Wal Wardman, introduced me to Shelley, Slessor, Shakespeare and Keats at Mullumbimby High. Paul Lamb lectured us on Housman, Hopkins and Eliot at Armidale Teachers’ College, and required us to write some poems. Housman had spoken to me (of sex, death and suicide back on the farm) when I was seventeen. Seeds had been sown.
In 1967 I fell in love with Margaret Macintyre and wrote bad verse. In 1968, while working at Armidale Teachers’ College (from 1968 – 1972), I switched my creative energies from painting to writing poetry. My verse improved as I fell out of love after the marriage failed, and I’ve kept on writing obsessively since that time.
Employment at The Australian Museum, Sydney, quite literally the ‘House of the Muses’, was where my poetry was consolidated. Poetic fragments were conceived in the bath, in bed, or at the traffic lights. I honed my poems on the ferry (the primary quiet-time in my working day), or at boring meetings.
In 1975, after experiencing considerable trouble having individual poems accepted by magazines, I was published under the pseudonym of ‘Eileen’ Wilson in Mother I’m Rooted, an Anthology of Australian Women Poets (my own lesser Ern Malley hoax). Not having had a ‘pater’ meant I had little idea of the ‘patriarchy’ that these middle class city women were all carrying on about. Nor did I like quotas as they distinguished against talent at selection’s edge, and to publish a book of female poets was equivalent to producing a book a brown-eyed poets to my mind, as gender and eye colour were both genetically determined.
This turned out to be a very bad career move in hindsight, resulting in me being sin-binned in certain quarters for a score of years, necessitating in the creation of Woodbine Press.
I present electronic copies of my books New Collected Poems and New Selected Poems as examples of my poetry: ‘New Collected Poems’ in PDF and ‘New Selected Poems’ in PDF. Please feel free to download and save these files, share and circulate them. You can do anything except sell them. Printed copies of these and other publications are available through Woodbine Press.
Apart from the Feminist backlash about ‘Eileen’, my chance of becoming a published poet (in the pre-electronic days) were somewhat less than the possibility of my being kicked to death by a mule back on the farm. Woodbine Press was established in 1982 as a subsidiary of the legendary publishers of Australian poetry, Edwards & Shaw (who published the first books of A.D. Hope, Les Murray, David Campbell and many more), with Dick Edwards and Rod Shaw (of Edwards & Shaw) as my silent partner. Dick went on to become a friend, and an important father figure in my life.
My first book of poetry, Banyan (1982), was printed with hot metal by Dick Edwards and Rod Shaw, the last book of poetry to come from their press before their retirement. Liberty, Egality Fraternity! (1984), The Dragon Tree (1985), Wild Tamarind (1987) and Falling Up Into Verse (1989) were subsequently produced by Dick Edwards and Rod Shaw, prior to Rod Shaw’s death, the last of this series being dedicated to Dick Edwards, ‘pig-farmer, philosopher, printer, publisher, and poet’.
The layout for The Rose Garden (1991) was done by Dick Edwards. With Dick’s failing health, Chaos Theory (1997) was the first Woodbine book to be produced electronically, and he saw an advanced copy of Cosmos Seven in 1998 (also dedicated to him), just before he died. All subsequent Woodbine books (post 1998) were produced without his invaluable editorial input.
My early books of poetry had all been graced by the delicate pencil drawings of Elizabeth McAlpine, until she contracted breast cancer. Asteroid Belt (2002, without illustrations) was dedicated to Elizabeth, who died in 2006. Some of her illustrations were recycled in Collected Poems (Kardoorair Press, 2002) and New Selected Poems (2010).
My exploits in publishing have essentially been a labour of love. Amy Witting’s Travel Diary (1985), John Carey’s Strip-Shopping for the Unemployed (1999), and John Ryan’s Tales of New England (2008), were also published under the Woodbine imprint. Now with the wonder of the Internet I hope my books may find a greater audience in the wider world, and that some of them become collector’s items sometime down the track.
Since 1982 I have published considerably more than twenty of my own books (through Woodbine Press, Hale & Iremonger, Kangaroo Press, Rainforest Publishing, Kardoorair Press, and the Royal Botanic Gardens Trust – of verse, about verse, prose works, and social histories of the Sydney Gardens and Domain), as listed below:
Books by Edwin Wilson:
- 2015, Stardust Painter-Poet (Edwin Wilson: Paintings and Poems), larger-format Art Book of both my paintings and my poems (Woodbine Press)
- 2014, Mullumbimby Dreaming, Art Book of Mullumbimby paintings and poems and Catalogue to an exhibition at Tweed River Gallery, Murwillumbah (Woodbine Press)
- 2013, Oliver Bainbridge – Lord Nelson’s Great Grandson? (Woodbine Press)
- 2012, New Collected Poems: 1952 – 2012 (Kardoorair Press)
- 2012, second edition The Mullumbimby Kid (Woodbine Press)
- 2010, New Selected Poems (Woodbine Press)
- 2009, My Brother Jim, (Poetry, Woodbine Press)
- 2006, The Melancholy Dane: A Portrait of the Poet as a Young Man, (Poetic Memoirs, Book Two, Woodbine Press)
- 2004, Poetry of Place, (Social History, Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain, Royal Botanic Gardens Trust)
- 2002, Asteroid Belt, (Poetry, Woodbine Press)
- 2002, Anthology: Collected Poems (Kardoorair Press)
- 2001, Cedar House, (Gothic Novel and Australian ‘Wuthering Heights’, Woodbine Press)
- 2000, The Mullumbimby Kid: A Portrait of the Poet as a Child, (Poetic Memoirs, Book One, Woodbine Press)
- 1998, Cosmos Seven, (Selected Poems, Woodbine Press)
- 1997, Chaos Theory, (Poetry, Woodbine Press)
- 1993, The Botanic Verses, (Poetry, Rainforest Publishing)
- 1992, The Wishing Tree, (Social History, Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain, Kangaroo Press, out of print)
- 1991, The Rose Garden, (Poems, Woodbine Press)
- 1990, Songs of the Forest, (Rainforest Poems, Hale & Iremonger)
- 1989, Falling Up Into Verse, (Poetic Handbook, Woodbine Press)
- 1987, Wild Tamarind, (Science fiction, Woodbine Press)
- 1986, Discovering the Domain (Ed.), (Social History, Hale & Iremonger, out of print)
- 1985, The Dragon Tree, (Poetry, Woodbine Press)
- 1984, Liberty, Egality, Fraternity! (Novel, Woodbine Press. Please note ‘egality’ is a word derived from ‘egalitarianism’)
- 1983, Drawn from Life (Ed.), (Catalogue to an early exhibition of Botanic Art, Royal Botanic Gardens, out of print)
- 1982, Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney (Ed.), (‘Guide to the Gardens’, Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, out of print)
- 1982, Banyan, (Poetry, Woodbine Press)
Poetry, Post New Collected Poems
I was bitterly disappointed when New Collected Poems (my beautiful book brought out just prior to my seventieth birthday) was essentially ignored by the Literati (except for one good review in The Australian Writer). So much anxiety, hope, energy, ego and aspiration is invested in each small book of poems, these precious children of our laboured nights. Imagine how you would feel if your ‘Collected Works’ (derived from many such volumes of ’emotional investment’ produced as the result of sixty years of application to the craft of verse) had been ignored (which paradoxically was even worse than being mauled, as I’d been mauled before). Horace had referred to the ‘touchy race of poets’. It’s a jungle out there, this poetry scene, and as Ted Hughes had said, ‘you expect to be mauled… [as it] … goes with the territory’.
The Australian poetry scene has always been so incredibly ‘politically-correct’ (and even more PC than thee) and faction ridden (see my ‘Open Letter to Live Poets, Literary Editors, Reviewers, Academics, Students, Minister for the Arts type staff, Literature Board Funding Committee Wallahs, Publisher’s Assistants, and Organisers of Literary Festivals’, as found in the hard-copy version of my New Selected Poems (but left out of the electronic version)). From my perspective so much of the Australian poetry scene (since the 1970s) had been taken over by ‘Revisionists’, each going to the same parties and Conferences and reviewing each others books. And sadly as far as I was concerned it seemed as if ‘they’ had long memories, and ‘had kept a little list’. The seventies and the eighties were a terrible time for a ‘live white male’ to try to break into the poetry game. In my Open Letter I had said ‘one gets much closer to truth as one approaches life’s finishing tape, as one fears failure less, as one has less to lose, and is less worried about what other people may think. Mark Twain [had] said you get closer to truth when you are dead, and preferably dead for a long time’. It is still my hope that my work will be ‘revised’ one day, when this current crop (myself included) has long been scythed. On being passed over (three times) for the Queensland Poetry Festival I had had enough, and retired (hurt) from Poetry Australia, to focus on my paintings.
I’d read somewhere that Judith Wright had ‘retired’ from writing poems when she turned seventy. In truth I was exhausted after such a long and sustained mental effort; my stamina levels were much reduced, I was essentially ‘post-poetry, and far too mellow to write good verse, but still have a strong impulse to paint’, (New Collected Poems, x), but felt I was getting better as a painter.
My Art Catalogue, Stardust Painter-Poet (Edwin Wilson: Paintings and Poems), was picked up on Henry Lawson’s birthday, 17 June 2015, which I took as an auspicious day. Many of the significant paintings in this book were done post 2003, after my retirement from paid work, as part of my artistic ‘late-flowering’. It is my sincere hope that this will be a ‘breakthrough’ book, and lift me out of the squabbling world of Australian poetry, that I should be assessed on both my paintings and my many books.
A number of lesser poems have trickled out since the publication of my New Collected Poems: ‘Recognition Test’; ‘Ah Am the Way’; revised last stanza of ‘Strangler Fig’; ‘Anima Poem’; ‘Summer Storms’; ‘Deep Time’; ‘Forty Years’; and ‘Skara Brae’, ‘Brunswick Heads 1940s’ (a development of ‘Summer Storms’, as published in The Bryon Shire Echo, 29 July 2015, p. 12); ‘New Spectacles’; ‘Tidge Has Gone with Tractors’; ‘Pumpkin Girl’; and ‘Mangrove Poem’. As I can’t see myself bringing out another volume (of my ‘late poetic flowerings’) at this stage, I include them here (in chronological order), as an addendum to my New Collected Poems (for citation purposes):
(18 June 2012)
I failed a recognition test
the other day
with Lindy C,
having failed another one
of the young man
from Robin’s Nest,
now jowled and bald –
and having just replaced
my Website photograph
made me reflect aloud
how Margaret Dawn
had fared with time,
when Cheryl Lillian replied
‘No doubt her ankles
Having failed to recognise Lindy Chamberlain on TV (who had been rather rather sexy when young), my wife Cheryl had shown me a photograph of the actor who played in Robin’s Nest, a TV show of a young man with a dolly wife running a restaurant with a one-armed Irish waiter. He had not aged well.
Ah Am the Way
(14 August 2012)
Ah am the way
Ah am the light,
when black is white
and white is black
(no shades of grey)
Brothers and Sisters
you have strayed,
if you repent
and follow me
you will be saved –
when all the bunnies
hop right down the line
to my buzzword or phrase.
Written as a result of having seen so many management reviews, with all their associated pseudo-religious jargon and bullshit, in a long lifetime of work.
(19 June 2013)
High from a tree’s moist cleft
a probing radical of hair,
an easy-rider networking in air
as roots adhere in warp and weft;
embracing host in bane caress
as consequence of truth or dare;
some cookoo-flowering affair,
this property is theft.
Revised first stanza of ‘Strangler Fig’, as used in Mullumbimby Dreaming, p. 24
(14 July 2014)
You are my anima
and I your animus,
when I was driven
by a ruthless Muse
to be my star
of unknown –
knows more than most,
that I am
what I am.
A poem with Jungian overtones.
(4 November 2014)
Summer at Brunswick Heads
black sand burnt
when the sun made fire
with a lens –
fruit bats at night,
under the street lights –
into this crucible
of rot and mold
I wilt even in shade
on enervating afternoons –
yearning to summer storms,
for cyclones even,
just to ease
the static in the air –
for cleansing rain,
that rainforests may be.
Memories of the intensity of summer heat in childhood at Brunswick Heads.
(22 December 2014)
In human forms of measurement
a cubit was a forearm’s length,
a hand a hand,a foot a foot;
a yard three feet
(the outstretched arm
from nose of king),
humanity is less than skin,
a file-stroke on a fingernail –
when time was measured
by the sun, the season’s turn,
deep-time beyond imagining;
an ancient bubble
in a core of ice,
a saw-toothed graph
that we trespass
on mother earth.
A Great Push launched in ’55
to haunt our atmosphere and seas,
as grapes fermented by the yeast
fruit out-of-season on the vine,
denial funded by dead plants
when time is being/being time,
this poem is written as a test.
A poem about deep time and climate change.
(28 April 2015)
To have grown old
together you and I
my little copper head,
as quick to laughter
as to tears,
sheet anchor, goad, and ballast
to life’s turbulence,
with two score years
of valency to help
domesticate my Muse –
freedom eschewed for
coaital glue, the
double-bond of coupling
propitiated with ‘yes dears’,
no more to loiter
on some shady path
but knuckle down
to some career,
the gravity of parenthood –
a granny now
knit one and purl,
who loved the granny
and the girl.
A poem to 40 years of marriage to Cheryl.
(6 May 2015)
Down from the Ring of Brogdar
and the Odin Stone,
snug from the arctic howl
in elevated ground
close to the eating sea;
a Neolithic hamlet
honeycombed in shells,
turf-roofed, with central hearth
and beds, rock-cupboards
set in dry-stone walls –
and not some Movie Set
but the Real Thing –
gave e goose bumps
to think my Danish kin
had reached this edge
why did they go?
Back in the bus
we look at new-born
calves and lambs,
so recently released in fields
tucked up against
more dry-stone walls –
same same construction
used in Skara Brae.
Poem inspired by our visit to Skara Brae, Orkney Islands, May 2015, and ‘sister’ poem to ‘Neolithic Church’, ‘Arthur’s Stone’, and ‘Bog Man’.
Brunswick Heads, 1940s
(22 July 2015)
at Brunswick Heads,
the Lover’s Walks
on Harrys Hill
with monkey vines
on which to swing
and elkhorn ferns and palms,
where Henry went with Jean –
the bliss of climbing orchids
draped with yellow bells.
Sifting through grit
near studded wrecks
at the river bar,
for coloured stones
with smooth inlays
and broken shells
and urchin’s teeth –
detritus sucked up
from the reef
in summer storms.
Green-algal corn flakes
on the tide,
the lapping froth
went up the channels first
where poddy mullet swam;
then filled the little
valleys of the rippled flat,
dissolving the sand castles
of the soldier ants
stacked up like cannon balls.
The great arc of the Milky Way
and Magellanic Clouds at night,
under the street light,
as fruit bats trace erratic
path from star to star,
to come to grief in the telegraph –
I watched them rot away
To scraps of skin and claw
My father looked like this.
A development of ‘Summer Storms’. Edwin Wilson (then known as ‘Peter’) lived for a short time at Brunswick Heads in the 1940s, as outlined in The Mullumbimby Kid.
(22 December 2015)
Supine with my new spectacles
in fading light –
totting up imfirmities
in ‘Little Dribbling’,
my spotted hands
with their protruding viens
(rice paper thin)
come into high relief –
hang on in there Edwin.
Written in a state of shock on viewing my old hands with my new spectacles.
Tidge Has Gone with Tractors
(13/14 January 2016, with apologies to Henry Lawson)
Our Tidge has gone to battle now
‘Gainst sand, the great marauder,
Out Tidge has gone with tractors now
Across the Queensland border.
Now who shall wear the cheerful face
In times when things are slackest?
And who shall whistle round the place
When Fortune frowns her blackest?
The gates are out of order now
All problems are protracted,
The dunny door bangs in the storm
Now Tidge has gone with tractors.
Poor Aunty’s looking thin and white
And Uncle’s most un-well;
And poor old Blucher howls all night
Since Ti-idge has left War-del-ll.
We hid the tyres in the cane
When Probate came a-goading,
We’ll never see his likes again
Now Tidge has crossed the Logan.
His crossing had been so left-field
Amidst the larks and skiving,
An angel stopped my mother’s car
To tell her Tidge was dying.
He’s left us in dejection now
Our hearts with him are roving,
It’s glum on our Selection now
Since Ti-idge lies a-moulding.
Banana leaves still flap and tear
as ‘farmer’s friends’ hitch for the ride,
and raindrops hissing on the stove,
the mangroves sighing with the tide.
Intended to be sung after the style of Chrissie Shaw when she sang Lawson’s ‘Andy Gone with Cattle’ poem at her father Rod Shaw’s funeral (her father Rod was a great whistler), reflecting on the impact of our father’s suicide back on the farm (that had been selected by his grandfather, my great grandfather).
(11 September 2016)
Having just read your earthquake of a book,
union of Spring with Photosynthesis,
a village rocked with continental certainties
had warped and slipped;
long-waves of after-shocks bend to the core
of our star-cross-ed-ness,
now you have found your own true north –
and how I loved the slender girl
I took to Manly Beach,
the innocence and awkward sinistral
of missionary and budding scientist,
now lapsed, had to abandon to respect,
unhawsered to her hawser-hole
with air-roots creaking to the tide,
no nooky without wedding bells –
that women love their children
more than husbands or first-loves
not wanting to be moored too soon,
when men go planting pumpkin seeds
the generations turn, I wish,
now I am dizzy when I pull a weed –
yet in this tome we are forever bound
and young, the moon tugs us,
we tug the moon.
A poem to my painting of my friend Lucian Michalski’s ‘Pumpkin Girl’ statue, used on the cover of Anne Butt’s Memoir, Pumpkin, read 9 September 2016.
(13-18 September 2016, r4evised 5-6 February 2017)
The earth had moved for me
shook the foundations
of my self-belief;
a long egress
across the nursery
of shrimp and fingerling,
exposing ribbon-weed and grief –
a wide discontinuity
of muddy serpentine.
The creak of mangroves
at the farm,
the tidal flux,
the waxing cycle of her moon –
her womanhood as a
pneumatophore or analogue,
come up for air
each spring or neap
when oysters spawn,
whose blood is brine.