I’m reading the last bit of Deborah Orr’s, autobiography, Motherwell: A Girlhood. In many ways John Wilks, should read, According To The Dandelions: A Boyhood. I trade in the nostalgia game so recognise the junk and faux gold that some writers sell. I can sift through the rubbish (lots of it written by yours-never-truely). But poetry scares me a bit, to paraphrase Stephen Mulrine’s The Coming of the wee Malkies.
Haw missis, whit’ll ye dae when the wee bit poetry come,
If they dreep doon affy the wash-hoose dyke,
An pit the hems oan the sterrheid light,
An play wee heidies oan the clean close wa,
Missis, whit’ll ye dae?
Where I come from, you see, poetry was always for women. I admit I cheat, a bit, and read poetry as prose. I don’t gie a fuck whit the rules are. And I don’t believe there is a conspiracy to keep me silent and my poems unpublished, because, if there is, I’m part of the conspiracy. Poetry has a hard enough job without me adding to the misery of mankind.
All readers play the part of Emperor in the colosseum of words. Reading is my religion, so I plump up the cushion quite willing to give words on a page a fighting chance and a thumbs up. Too many books and words that give me a headache and it’s a thumbs down.
John Wilks, Dandelions, gets a thumbs up, because like Deborah Orr’s Motherwell, his is a world I know, I’ve lived. His words are my words. When poetry says what you didn’t actually say, without saying it, but you go— right. It resonates somewhere inside you, then, it rings true, and the wee Malkies willnae get you.
Getting the Picture, for example.
Let me draw you a picture, he said;
meaning: you are stupid.
This from someone that can barely scribble
a stick figure whose knowledge
of anatomy is crude, at best.
I hear that voice, I get that, it is part of my past of self, of self-knowing and the tribe of people I know or have known.
The Girl I Wanted
I wanted a girl who would hold my Mars bar
and use it for a microphone.
The kind of girl I could follow
up the stairs of Routemaster
and I would be watching the curves
of her cheekbones, the ozone depleting
bounce of asymmetric hair,
the nebulae round her eyes.
I can open any page in John Wilk’s collection of fifty poems and I’m staring back. The Girl I Wanted was Pauline Moriarity. Here she is on a Routemaster bus. Here she is in my heart. Not broken. Not mended. Not wiser—because I never got older. Sshhh, whisper it, that’s the secret of poetry, like the wee Malkies I’m always waiting, always there, and John Wilks has mastered it well.
Let me put you in the picture, he said;
meaning: watch your back, I’ve been talking behind it.