Pitch your tent: Carleton Wilson The Material Sublime

Car­leton Wilson. The Mater­ial Sub­lime. Gib­sons, BC: Night­wood Edi­tions, 2011.

Reviewed by Abby Paige in Arc Magazine, Tuesday, July 24th, 2012.

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A.F. Moritz in Introductions: Poets Present Poets

Carleton Wilson is already a leader in the group of young poets who wed intelligence and fresh feeling to a renewed concern for poetic form. His is an earthen voice, tanging of clay, bark and iron, of rain or dusk light on rails, gleaming sidewalks, concrete walls. Its richness comes from its own depths, though, not from gritty subject matter, for it also can speak with a touch of Laforgue’s irony about graceful or fantastic things. Wilson relates that he “plucked the blunt bone from its muddy pit” and saw in a badger’s skull “the conceptions / of scrounge and scurry were left in the form / of packed dirt”. Exchanging the subterranean and theroid for the supernal, he also describes angels who struck Rumi to the ground with a revelation: “collapsing his height / by unknown feats of spiritual engineering, each / celestial frame then retreated into a sheen / of sunlight”.

Eloquence exactly fitted like this to its meaning is rare. Wilson’s fine verbal imagination blends the aulic and the colloquial and finds (or makes up) surprising words to create many a memorable line: “the underscore of strewn chestnuts / I kicked at as I walked along”, “the stunted phrasing of boxcar wheels”, the moon “holding sway over the dank mask in my hand”. He reverences the traditions of poetry. His sonnets, for example, renovate the ancient genre with novel rhythms and many finely invented assonances, consonances, off-rhymes, hypermetrical rhymes and the like. Look at the subtle, expressive pattern of the syllables ending with “r” in the last three lines of “Junction Sonnets I” (ear, air, pure, are, bear, their) and at the counterpoint played in the first of these lines by syllables with “r” at their start (drum, brisk, dross). Everywhere in Wilson’s verse, mastery carries thought and emotion quietly into the heart.

© A.F. Moritz, 2001. Posted with permission.

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 Review of Junction Sonnets in Broken Pencil 15

Another poetry chapbook. Nope. Not this time kiddies. This time our famous BP Editor has bestowed upon your humble reviewer and only friend a work of poetry that is in the borrowed words of Carleton Wilson like “liquid … mercury in thin autumn light.” Put another way, this poetry chapbook is kick ass with a BIG Q on quality. Whoever this Carleton Wilson is, he’s put together a cycle of poems that do more than suggest Dylan Thomas. If you’re into poetry, and want to see how it’s done, write to Junction Books and get a copy of it, pronto. (DP)