The Brief Biography of a Some-Time Poet

by Nigel Robert Wilson


I was fortunate as a child in that I grew up in a house where there were many books. This was in the early Fifties when my father worked in the book trade and as a cartographer my mother was continually involved with academic publications.


A big early influence was Rudyard Kipling’s `Puck of Pook’s Hill’ which introduced me to poetry, history and the supernatural: three things which have remained with me always. Then at school hearing a recording of Neville Coghill reading Chaucer in Middle English completely blew me away, leading me eventually to Old English poetry and the Norse heroic sagas.


As I grew up in Sixties London I came across Adrian Mitchell, the beat poet whose chippy verse broadened my experience of poetry as current commentary. Then not much later there came the Liverpool poets; Brian Patten, Roger McGough and my then principle hero, Adrian Henri. I will never forget seeing that tubby man cavorting around the stage as lead singer for the Liverpool Scene screaming his anger at Enoch Powell. At university I did politics at York but despite an upper second it didn’t work for me. I have remained the angry man: only now in that I am not as lonely as I once was.


My current poetry is formed around narrative poems mainly focussed on the English Civil War and ideas associated with that period. As a historian living in North Buckinghamshire I am researching how the events of that war affected the area, not least in the knowledge that some of my Huguenot ancestors were living close-by in Woburn at the time. It has become a bit personal not least the realisation that they and my Chiltern forebears were of the Baptist persuasion so had strong puritan loyalties. Since discovering that connection I have written poems investigating the psychology of the puritan persona. It has helped me enormously to understand why I am.


I suppose the darker side of my nature largely emanates from Scots ancestors who settled in London’s East End just under two hundred years ago. I can do gloomy with the best of them. Some were victims of the Highland Clearances and were Gaelic speakers. One was reputed to be a witch but since she only ever lived in Shadwell, Bethnal Green and Ilford I doubt if she had much opportunity to run about sky-clad; but her children were enjoined whilst blackberrying to `always leave some for The Lady’. Highland poetry invariably possesses a superb statement of landscape which I endeavour to emulate. The descriptive clarity of `An Eala Bhan’ reduces me to tears, as it is a poem spoken and sung from a very dark and deadly place.


The other major influence both at the beginning and in continuance was the scholar and antiquarian Montague Rhodes James, arguably the father of the English ghost story. His landscape and mine overlap in many ways and places. I have written short stories in his manner and some have been published in `All Hallows’ and `The Silent Companion’. I am trying to move onto other short story genres including fantasy and history. The psychological aspect of humanity always fascinates.






The Angel at Satan’s Gate

by  Nigel Robert Wilson

Warm sand lifts between naked toes,

Waking me within a grey wilderness

Of desert, rock and dune

Over which a deep dark night is wrapped

Missing both moon and the indifferent stars.


Fearfully, I squat in this shadow-place

Until the sky dawns a hot glowing pink

To show flights of demons, formation stacked,

Grumbling on to some defeated empire

Where the equivocators wait, bunker-deep,

For a judgement yet to come.


Now I stand at the edge of a mighty cliff

Looking out on a vale of steam

Towards a brutal, brass-gated mound,

Belching forth fire and smoke

To reveal and obscure a foul ecology.


The perpetual evening glow

Forces back the shadows as if the sun was

Reversing blood red from the west,

To outline a tower at Satan’s gate

Where I now sit, a dark-eyed angel,

Watching the many who come and the few who go;

Making tally of Satan’s due.


For in this tower I am doomed to weep

In death as in life, impotently watching

The sad millions who unwittingly

Expressed their preference for this ugly door.