Ben Wilkinson was born in Stafford in 1985, and now lives in Sheffield. His pamphlet For Real (smith|doorstop Books, 2014) won the Northern Promise Award as part of the 2014 Northern Writers’ Awards. His poems have appeared in Poetry Review, The Guardian, The Spectator and Liverpool FC Monthly. Among other things he works as a critic, reviewing new poetry for The Guardian, The Poetry Review, and The Times Literary Supplement. He is currently working on his debut full collection of poems with support from Arts Council England.
For Real was a winner in the Poetry Business Competition, judged by Carol Ann Duffy.
This is poetry that bares its heart, not for the sake of confession or self-gratification, but for transforming qualities that are capable of moving its reader ... sorrow and struggle are laced with passion and optimism. The verse in For Real is brave, and hugely authentic.
- Matthew Stewart, Rogue Strands
Technically adroit, Ben Wilkinson’s poems are also willing to wear their heart on their sleeve. Lyrical and sometimes wistful, the best poems have a spoken contemporary quality. There is a great deal of promise in this striking collection.
- Carol Ann Duffy
Wilkinson’s poems are weighty and cinematic, and his gift for finding the poetry in football terraces as well as crafting lyrical intrigue demonstrate his range and place as an up-and-coming voice on the UK poetry scene.
- The Poetry Book Society
Ben Wilkinson’sFor Real has a title that reads like a statement of intent – although he plays with dreams and illusion, he is also a very plain-speaking poet, who keeps his language grounded in the everyday ... Wilkinson is surely aware that such plainness is a high-stakes game, which when he pulls it off can lead beyond truisms to lines that are moving in their truth.
- Clare Pollard, Poetry London
‘I can’t make you feel what I felt’ (David Foster Wallace), one of the epigraphs toFor Real, is a challenge to which Wilkinson rises with considerable success.
- Andrew McCulloch, Times Literary Supplement
Filmic, phantasmagoric, super-realist - in For Real, Ben Wilkinson shoots the rapids of our emerging twenty-first century's infra- and extraordinary, in a stylish, poised lyric voice that looks built to last.
- Paul Farley
Ben Wilkinson is one to watch. A fine poet with a deft ear and a nice sense of how the external world presses on the inner one.
- Nick Laird
In one sense, Wilkinson's poetry is 'for real' because it's serious and engaged with its subject matter, but there's conversely a tension between the real and what is desired or feared. These powerful, disturbing images seep into the unconscious and they are carefully crafted ... Arguably the whole collection is characterised by an overlap of the real and unreal and many of the poems are placed in similar uncertain, dreamlike territory ... There are some highly memorable lines and images.
- Maria Taylor, Under The Radar
Fluent, solid, assured ... dreams of dread evoke an awareness of mortality that belies the poet's youth.
- Katy Evans-Bush, The Poetry Review
For you, the catch wasn't something caught:
not word or contender, attention or fire.
Not the almost-missed train, or the sort
of wave surfers might wait an entire
lifetime for. Not the promise that leaves
the old man adrift for days, his boat
creaking, miles offshore. Nor what cleaves
the heart in two, that left your throat
parched and mute for taking pill
after yellow-green pill, the black-blue
taste the price you paid to kill
the two-parts sadness to one-part anger.
No. The catch was what you could never
let go. It's what you carried, and still do.