Friday Poem – ‘Portrait of the Artist Asleep’ by Ben Wilkinson


This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Portrait of the Artist Asleep’ by Ben Wilkinson from his collection Same Difference which was published earlier this week.

This covers shows an abstract painting made up of blues and grey. There are splashed of red and green down the left hand side and a face-like smudge in the centre. The text reads: Same Difference, Ben Wilkinson "Formally dextrous... likes to keep the reader on their toes." The Poetry Review

Same Difference is the formally acute second collection by Ben Wilkinson. Carefully crafted, and charged with contemporary language, the poems play with poetic voice and the dramatic monologue, keeping us on our toes and asking just who is doing the talking. Throughout, he ‘steps into the shoes’ of French symbolist poet Paul Verlaine (1844-96), reframing his voice for modern readers. Brimming with everyone from cage fighters and boy racers to cancer patients and whales in captivity, Same Difference is gritty, darkly ironic and often moving – a collection for our times.

Portrait of the Artist Asleep
after Verlaine
She looks for all the world like some deadbeat angel,
foetal but hopeful, an inch of light haloing
her temple. She’s restless, sure, half mumbling
to herself as the door rocks gently in its frame,
stirred by a breeze the way her waking thoughts
follow whatever her eyes light on, even you.
Truth is, she’ll be up and gone before you know,
back among the world and brilliant with it,
and you, friend, won’t even make a painting
or poem, whichever she turns her hand to next.
You’re no more her muse than the lamp distilled
in the mirror she’ll fix her face in before she leaves.

Same Difference is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Catch Ben reading from Same Difference in person at Bolton Central Library on Tuesday 8th March. Visit boltonenglish.com for more details.

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