5 Questions for: Lawrence Wilson

Lawrence WilsonPaper Swans Press and Lawrence Wilson

Lawrence Wilson’s poem, Triolet for M was published in The Darker Side of Love. Lawrence’s poem, Build me a Tower was highly commended in our The Poetry of Roses competition for The National Trust, Sissinghurst.



Lawrence Wilson grew up near Chicago, Illinois, and has degrees in drama, education and inter-disciplinary art. He moved to the UK in 2005, and currently teaches English and drama at one of the oldest independent prep schools in England. He has sung and acted professionally and has exhibited his pottery, sculpture, installations and artist’s books in the UK and the USA and online. His fiction, poetry, essays and reviews have appeared in Albedo One, Agenda, The Darker Side of Love, Poet’s Cove, Art and Academe, Prairie Light Review, The Art of Monhegan Island, on Salon.com, Monhegan.com and in other journals and collections.


When did you first start writing poetry and why?

Early on! Years 7, 8… in my early journals and diaries there are some examples of truly dreadful poems, of which I was so proud at the time. I was lucky to have some excellent English teachers who encouraged me to keep writing, but one of the best was Miss Corinne Johnson in Year 9, who read through a sheaf of poems that I thought particularly fine and pronounced them nothing but doggerel. “Show me something real, something that really matters to you…” Advice that I have never forgotten.


Which of your many poetry accolades has been the most significant for you?

First publication? First anthology? A very difficult question… I was thrilled when Patsy McCarthy accepted a poem for Agenda, but one of the most wonderful moments was when Carl Little, the editor of a book about the art and artists of Monhegan, an island off the coast of Maine where we spent a glorious week one summer, asked if he could include one of my poems. Page after page of the most incredible paintings and drawings, all trying to capture the ineffable spirit of a unique place, and my heartfelt sonnet amongst them. A beautiful and magical place—I would like to go back someday. Its hooks are in my heart…


If you had to save just one poetry book from your bookshelf, what would it be and why?

You do ask tough questions, don’t you…? At the opening reception of my MFA thesis, two dear friends gave me a copy of the first edition of TS Eliot’s Four Quartets. I value it for the poems themselves but also for the love behind the gift.


You seem to like form a lot. Which is you favourite poetic form to write in?

Sonnets, definitely—and, in particular, a type of sonnet which I have appropriated from American poet Marilyn Hacker. I was introduced to her work by Angela Jackson, a professor at Columbia College Chicago, when I was getting my first master’s degree. Hacker’s sonnets veer wildly from the Shakespearian standard, and the subject matters range from the casual to the carnal. The rhyme scheme is out-of-the-ordinary: ABCDEF ABCDEF GG. The rhymes are so far removed from each other that one tends to forget that they are there. There is something quite liberating about forcing oneself to adhere to a strict, formal pattern. Difficult, exasperating sometimes…but within that stricture, one has absolutely freedom to say whatever one wishes. And, in a weird way, the restriction is freeing—one fewer thing to worry about!


Your bio cites a lot of artistic forms…poetry, writing, art, drama…do you have a favourite?

I don’t…and I do. I am a strong believer in the value of the interdisciplinary model—some of my best work blurs the traditional boundaries between visual, verbal, kinetic, musical and performative art. My first love was singing, which segued swiftly into theatre—and theatre is the ultimate interdisciplinary art, as it requires all the others in order to manifest. I try not to over-compartmentalise—I want to do EVERYTHING and do it well.


And, finally. Which poem would you like to share with us?

This sonnet was the title piece of my 2001 MFA show, and was published in the “Poetry and Opera” issue of Agenda in 2013. It explains, or at least tries to explain, something about my process of creating art.

modus operandi

eternal question: revelation—how
to say it, how to share the moment of
enlightenment (to use a loaded term)
when perfect words descend like deities
and drop with flawless grace into the waltz
of rhyme and rhythm in the waiting ink?

results are one thing. What you’re reading now
is distanced from the lovely torment of
the ringing, rousing moment when the germ
of an idea takes on flesh and flies
like Icarus (but wearing sunscreen), false-
ness burned away, revealing candor. Think

of sculpture, thinking of opera, think of dance:
the years of groundwork, then the blaze of chance

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