Monday, July 24, 2023

Claude Wilkinson

Claude Wilkinson is a poet, painter, and writer, who has just published his fifth poetry collection: Soon Done with the Crosses (2023). It is the latest volume from Cascade’s Poiema Poetry Series. I am honoured to have worked with Claude as his editor for this new book.

His previous poetry collections include Reading the Earth (1998, Michigan State), winner of the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award ― Joy in the Morning (2004, LSU Press), for which he was nominated for an American Book Award, the Griffin Poetry Prize, and a Pulitzer Prize ― Marvelous Light (2018, Stephen F. Austin State University Press) ― and World Without End (2020, Slant). He is also the winner of the Whiting Award for Poetry.

He grew up in rural Mississippi, but has been influenced by many other regions and landscapes. In a recent interview with Fare Forward he said, “[M]y way of looking through our world is, without doubt, shaped by my early, enjoyable experiences in a rural, welcoming landscape. I believe it’s one of the ways that my spirit became attuned to God and what little I know of the universe.” Later, when asked about challenges for writing about nature today, he said, “To properly appreciate nature, we must have reverence for it and foremost for its Creator.”

Wilkinson identifies his favourite poets as Derek Walcott and Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Robert Cording has said that Claude Wilkinson’s poetry “brings art and nature together—the artfulness here not in its faithful copying of nature, but in its evocation of reality in all its fullness.”

The following is the opening poem in Soon Done with the Crosses.

Birds That Alight on Faith

Help me also to believe in
the leanest saplings and twigs,
in something as flimsy
as a honeysuckle bloom,
as Theseus did, in my imagining, when
he tackled the Minotaur, or Icarus
when he flew momentarily
into the face of the sun.

Help in the way I’ve seen
pelicans and swans skim
mutely onto a lake,
thinking it solid as stone,
the way Saint Peter did
when he took his first steps
on stormy Gennesaret
before hearing the strife
cursing around his feet.

With only that thimbleful
of aerial surety, help me
to grasp those things
which never collapse
under the heft of this life.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.