The Lyric Touch gathers John Wilkinson’s essays on British and American poetry of the late twentieth century and on poetics, several of them referenced in standard works despite being hard to obtain. It includes his important essays on J.H. Prynne, John James, Tom Raworth, Barry MacSweeney and Denise Riley together with a lucid account of the formation of the ‘Cambridge School’, and a substantial introduction to the American lyric poet John Wieners. The book also discusses major writers such as Mina Loy, Lynette Roberts, Robert Creeley, Frank O’Hara, Ted Berrigan, Marjorie Welish and Andrea Brady. Finally it includes Wilkinson’s most significant theoretical statements, ‘Cadence’, ‘The Metastases of Poetry’, ‘Mouthing Off’ and ‘Following the Poem’, the last including detailed readings of P.B. Shelley and Paul Celan.
John Wilkinson’s prose entices the reader into engaging with some of the most demanding and rewarding poetry of the past fifty years, and connects it persuasively with a radically excessive strain in Romantic English lyric. For this book, the vectors of excess are marked as information (as in Prynne), language (as in Raworth), self-consciousness (as in Riley) and feeling (as in Wieners). All distinguish lyric poetry as an art from other linguistic transactions while it remains humanly recognisable. This separation and recognition are understood throughout as the basis for a politics.
The Lyric Touch will be invaluable for anyone interested in recent British and American poetry, as well as enthusiasts for John Wilkinson’s own poetry.
‘Wilkinson's essays in The Lyric Touch offer a body of critical work which, while insistently attentive to the play and resonances of poetic language, is never content to rest with the notation of mere semiotic experiment. Throughout Wilkinson maintains an invigorating ethical commitment to a comprehension of the lyric subject’s location in the world that drives the critic as much as the poet to take on the intricate connections of institutions, power and language. Like Wilkinson's own poetry, his critical essays refuse to accede to the moribund route of pathos or easy sentimentality, but track the imbrication of the lyric voice in the meshings of machinery and discourse. This is criticism that answers to the demands of poetry itself: in a language that is always responsive to its occasions, it never fails to foreground the pleasures of its own readerliness, of a mode of response that itself verges on lyric and yields not dissimilar pleasures.’ —David Lloyd, University of Southern California
‘John Wilkinson is a poet and critic of unfailing verve and accuracy. No voice audible today sounds a more exact imagination.’ —Simon Jarvis, University of Cambridge