YOU’VE GOT AN EYELASH by Lee Wilson (Survivors’ Press, LONDON, UK)
Reviewed by John Stiles (PS I sent this to a journal to review before both Olympics and the last World cup, I think, and then various things including eight jobs in one year and the madness of life took over. So I re-post here as it is a good book.)
Lee Wilson has been knocking about the London poetry scene for a while and has received recognition in a few decent poetry journals such as Ambit and The Rialto as well as more grass roots publications such as The Polka Dot Ceiling. Wilson’s controlled, taut poems now come to prominence in his first full collection YOU’VE GOT AN EYELASH from Survivors’ Press in London.
The tension in the writing, which propels the reader through each poem resonates with Wilson’s themes of disappointment, poverty, resignation, bleak humour and self-parody. While hopelessness might have its cache (and stay forever sunk) in the underground bars and depraved scenes of singles nights Wilson’s poems are skilled in their observation, each line bristling with dramatic intent. In the title poem, the author, perhaps all too familiar with the futility (but comic tinge) of life remarks:
You’ve got an eyelash
After a film, I find my curiosity/
entwined with hers. We’re almost a knot/
when we push through/
the ever stiff doors/
away from disinfectant, electric light...//
Do we know where this is leading? Towards a confession, a rejection?
In Carpet, the tautness, the tension of the solitary man is evident in self-parody. We are not left needing the words Travis Bickle to tell us who might be parodied here, or guess why the subject might be in such a predicament:
Are you talking to me? he says./
Are you talking to me? – to the smeary mirror./
He picks at a speck of egg on his fleece./
He leans back against the wall/
and pulls out a box of Marlboro/
Light. He flicks at his lighter./
He flicks at his lighter./
He takes out a cigarette, glares at the mirror,/
And flicks at the lighter. //
Right, he says, turning up his lapels.
Let’s go and sell some carpet.
The disenchantment with the world, is not restricted to self, nor to parents nor siblings. And this penchant for doom could get tiring but Wilson has a way of winking at you amidst the loneliness, perhaps playing with the idea that he has a plan to escape all this. Wilson’s fierce intelligence is daring you to read on.
Are you English?
You’re not Kosovan are you? she repeats/
as I lean toward her. She looks worried; I can see/
she imagines eyes on her back. She explains//
that Kosovans have been hassling her; all night./
Put your arm around me, she says./
they’ll think we’re together. The way she says//
the word together, it could be foreign to her./
As my fingertips come to rest on her ribs/
Her friend, who’s wearing a decorative bindi, joins us.//
We’re minutes into a new millennium./
That year before I’d bumped into my cousin/
in the same pub. She dragged me over to her crowd;//
her boyfriend handing me a drink I didn’t want…/
Lee Wilson has a rare quality, to let the reader into the world where small dramas unfold in private moments; no preachy subtext here, just the bare elegant facts in careful studied choice of words.