John Wilkinson

Professor of Practice in the Arts
Department of English and Committee on Creative Writing
Associate Chair for Creative Writing and Poetics

Office: Taft House 301
Phone: (773) 702-2187

I am an English-language poet whose research interests derive from the reading which continues to be provocative to my writing, whether through absorption, enjoyment, skepticism, envy or antipathy. In recent years my critical writing has been more tightly focused than I might have wished, mainly on poets of the first-generation New York School and on contemporary English and North American poets. Coming to Chicago gives permission to stray, and I look forward (as examples) to writing on Shelley or Crashaw, as well as to writing more about contemporaries despite concomitant risks to life, limb and friendship.

Central to all my critical writing is a preoccupation with the peculiar properties of lyric poetry. What is the social ground of lyric? Does lyric prosody carry a capacity for thought distinguishable from semantics? What principles govern lyric coherence, especially for extended works in sequences or books? What political valency can and should lyric poetry aspire to? My approaches to these questions are governed by a training in close reading, an interest in object relations theory, and a moderate amount of errant curiosity.

My background is an unusual one, in that my academic career followed over twenty years in mental health services in England, latterly with responsibility for planning and performance managing services in the East End of London. However, my commitment to the practice of poetry and to writing about it has been consistent since teenage years. Therefore I know enough to refrain from prescribing where this practice might further take me.

My teaching interests include New York School poetry (Frank O’Hara, Barbara Guest, John Ashbery, James Schuyler); other mid-twentieth century American poets, such as those affiliated with Black Mountain (especially John Wieners) and associated with the San Francisco Renaissance; British poetry, fiction and other prose of the 1930s; British poetry from the 1930s to the present, especially W. H. Auden, W. S. Graham, Lynette Roberts, J. H. Prynne and Denise Riley; and the theory and practices of close reading and of glossing; relationships between poetry and visual arts. I expect these interests will extend.


Graduate: Thinking through Poetry; Poetics

Undergraduate: Advanced Poetry Workshop; How to Read Difficult Poems; Reading for Writers; New York School Poetry; British Poetry of the Long 1930s; Immigration and Deregulation in Recent British Fiction; Lyric Events and Objects

Selected Publications


(Most of these titles include the contents of chapbooks published earlier by different presses.)

  • Schedule of Unrest: Selected Poems. Ed. Alex Pestell. Cromer: Salt Publishing, 2014.
  • Courses Matter-Woven. Cambridge: Equipage, 2014.
  • Reckitt's Blue. London, New York and Calcutta: Seagull Books 2013.
  • Ode at the Gate of the Gathering. Brighton and London: Crater Press, December 2011.
  • Flung Clear: Poems in Six Books. Reissue of 1994 title. Cambridge: Salt Publishing, 2010.
  • Down to Earth. Cambridge: Salt Publishing, 2008.
  • Lake Shore Drive. Cambridge: Salt Publishing, 2006.
  • Proud Flesh. Reissue of 1986 title, intro. by Drew Milne. Cambridge: Salt Publishing,  2005.
  • Contrivances. Cambridge: Salt Publishing, 2003.
  • Effigies Against the Light. Cambridge: Salt Publishing, 2001.


  • "The Iron Lady and the Pearl: Male Panic in Barry MacSweeney's Jury Vet." In Reading Barry MacSweeney, ed. Paul Batchelor, 87-106. Newcastle upon Tyne: Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts with Bloodaxe Books, 2013.
  • About About: Ammons’s Garbage, Chicago Review 57:1/2, Summer/Autumn 2012, pp. 36-48.
  • Faults and Somersaults’ [on Shelley, Hart Crane and Prynne], Cambridge Literary Review Vol.III, No.6, Easter 2012, pp.125-134.

    Flung Clear

    The Lyric Touch

  • "‘Where Air is Flesh’: The Odes of Frank O’Hara." In Frank O’Hara Now. New Essays on the New York Poet, ed. Robert Hampson and Will Montgomery, 103-99. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2010.
  • "Jim the Jerk: Bathos and Loveliness in the Poetry of James Schuyler." In On Bathos: Literature, Art, Music, ed. Sara Crangle and Peter Nicholls, 71-89. London and New York: Continuum, 2010.
  • "Glossing Gloss and Its Undertow" [on Barbara Guest]. Textual Practice 24:4 (2010): 749-64.
  • The Lyric Touch. Essays on the Poetry of Excess. Salt Publishing, Cambridge, 2007.
  • "Contemporary Lyric and Epic Constraints: A Reading of Rob Halpern's Weak Link." Chicago Review 55:2 (Spring 2010).
  • "Heigh Ho: A Partial Gloss of Word Order." Glossator: Theory and Practice of the Commentary 2 (2010), special issue 'On the Poems of J.H. Prynne'.
  • "The Glass Enclosure: Transparency and Glitter in the Poetry of George Oppen." Critical Inquiry 36:2 (Winter 2010).
  • "'Couplings of such sonority': reading a poem by Barbara Guest." Textual Practice 23:3 (2009).
  • "Lost and Found in The Türler Losses" [on Barbara Guest]. Chicago Review 53-54:1/2 (Summer 2008).


B.A., University of Cambridge 1975. Ph.D., University of Cambridge, 2009. Teaching at Chicago since 2010.