John Wilkinson


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Shearsman Books
1 September 2023
ISBN: 9781848618985
98 pages

From the publisher

Fugue State is John Wilkinson's fifteenth book of poems, and the most fiery. In it, the world is thicker than ever, crowded with all sorts of things, from futures to the exhumed bodies of 80 girls. His muse is a fly, try to catch it. His sentences zigzag. His unique fashion of figuration risks cutting ties with "verisimilitude." Opposing everything that blocks, hardens, locks, and pursues a single, choke-hold course, he takes his stand on the edge of chaos, not instituted law. Thus would he champion the precept of refreshment, not least the natural cycle of living things. More, he curses "the misbegetting Gods [who] fuck in beach-huts of a cement Lethe." Data-streams, a "horizon of ones and zeros," self-driving cars, drones, crypto-currency, robots - these are for him aspects of the concretization of modern culture. Fighting its sway, he is as steely as he is mercurial. Force is good if it's on the side of "the vital artery." In the last decade Wilkinson has become a master of the longish poem - here, for instance, 'East Lake' and 'Xipe Totec.' Of poets now writing in English, he is the freest and most elusive-on-principle, the most capable of pulling out a language blade and using it. -Calvin Bedient Contrapuntal, polyphonic, recursive and baroque, John Wilkinson's Fugue State sounds the dissociative disorder of our time - and of history itself. "May my transmission glorify each wandering, singular flight," writes this poet; from the business traveller's "fugue in a transport cafe" to a fossilized "insect on a rock discovered in its rock face itself rock," Wilkinson charts fugitive flight paths through arrest and duration, myth and modernity, art and violence, interiority and collective life. Fugue State exposes us, like the flayed singer Marsyas, to our own "wild skin unfolding." From this vital material, we might fashion a flag for lifeworlds to come. -Srikanth Reddy