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|WILLIAM WANTLING -- FOUR HORSE POET|
'In the end the only authentic art is that which has about it the power of inevitability.'
'Four demon horsemen rode through the apocalyptic world of poet William Wantling, always in jangling pursuit, and always with a wrath stoked by his own. War, Dope, Prison and Government trampled him in turn and often until he was crushed for good at the age of forty in 1974. That he had a fateful hand in it all goes without saying. In the last ten years of his life he did all the writing he was going to do. But what writing it was!'
William Wantling was one of the most original and exciting poets to emerge from the 1960s small press scene. His use of different poetic forms and raw subject matter convinced Walter Lowenfels to declare Wantling 'the best poet of his age.' The Korean War, heroin addiction and 5 years in San Quentin Prison all fell under Wantling's unique gaze. These were experiences he lived, wrote about and for which he is best known. But this was not the whole story. Wantling also wrote many touching and provocative poems about love won and lost, of alienation in a hostile world--timeless themes that strike a chord with the modern reader. Wantling died of heart failure in May 1974, aged 40. During his lifetime, he had contact with the likes of Robert Bly, Norman Mailer, Walter Lowenfels, Edward Lucie-Smith, Alan Swallow, Steve Richmond, Douglas Blazek and Charles Bukowski. Wantling was published consistently throughout his career, not just in the books and pamphlets that form the basis of Only in the Sun and The Fix (Tangerine Press, published May and Nov 2008, respectively), but also in many poetry anthologies on war, prison (including Penguin's still in print Prison Writing in 20th Century America, 1998), drugs and poetry theory. He was also featured in the twelfth edition of the prestigious series Penguin Modern Poets (Penguin Books Ltd, 1968), with Alan Jackson and Jeff Nuttall. Editor and former BBC Bookmark presenter Ian Hamilton (1938-2001) saw fit to list Wantling ('a vibrant, fresh talent allied to great sensitivity') in the Oxford Companion to 20th Century Poetry in English (1994). More recently, Professor John Osborne, Lecturer in American Studies at the University of Hull, included a significant section on Wantling in his contribution to the weighty Blackwell Companion to Twentieth Century Poetry (Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2001), edited by Neil Roberts. Professor Kevin Jones, who introduced Only in the Sun, has written extensively on Wantling, including his lengthy and typically readable dissertation entitled Finding Jewels in the Awkward Mud: A Reconsideration of the Life and Works of William Wantling. Ian Seed's shadowtrain.com dedicated issue 7 to Wantling--includes pieces by Peter Finch, Kevin Jones, Edward Lucie-Smith and others.
'‘Wantling uses words as bullets that crack open what he feels has got to be said. There is a terrible experience in much of his best work: war, jail, drugs and no salvation… except Style: how you transform your terror into a poem.’
'There is no shock to Wantling’s death; the American literary landscape is too littered with the fallen for that. Drunks, burnouts, losers. The thing is, Wantling did not waste his talent, he used it up to the end. Somehow, through the drugs, through the cheap liquor, he was able to craft a body of work that is clear, powerful, unflinching and true, a body of work that speaks not only of his life and times, but to all times.'
|In 2008, Tangerine Press published Only in the Sun and The Fix, a two-volume celebration of William Wantling's work. These books are long out-of-print and rarely come up on the collectors market.|
Some comments on Only in the Sun
'The book is a beautiful production. It makes me think of the wonderful books John Martin
'Your book is a beautiful thing indeed. Thanks for making use of the material.'
'This is a superb edition and a fine collection, I have to say. I am glad you have
'When a publisher puts that much care into the presentation of the poems then poetry has