Steve Wilson, English professor, writes Irish poetry inspired by experiences during his summers abroad in Ireland.
Long summers spent in Ireland with students and family inspired Steve Wilson, English professor, to write a book of poems based on his experiences. Wilson, who has led the study abroad program in Ireland since 1999, has familial roots in the country and a passion for Irish culture. His new book, The Lost Seventh, has been published both here and abroad in several languages.
CF: Have you always been a poet?
SW: I’ve been a poet since high school, but didn’t get serious until I was well into college. I’m one of those people who can’t write prose. I tried to write short stories, but it turned into poems.
CF: What motivated you to start writing poetry based on your summers in Ireland?
SW: You start to absorb your environment. I was given a lot of time to experience poetry and imagery — over enough time, eight years, I was able to complete a book. It helps that it’s very evocative and mystical. There’s lots of mist, moss and empty spaces. The students that go talk about it feeling timeless. There’s also a personal connection there. My grandmother was from Ireland and grew up in a town 30 miles outside of the town we study. We go back partly because of that connection and because we love it. The people are wonderful. When I hear the people talk there, I hear my grandma.
CF: Who are some of your inspirations in poetic style?
SW: Alan Ginsberg — I don’t write like him, but I admire his energy. My influences are Wallace Stevens, Robert Bly and Emily Dickinson. I’m interested in space and its use in language. I use lots of dashes. For example, for this book I use the style of Emily Dickinson. She uses a lot of hesitation. You get a sense of what she experiences in the world. If anyone read my poetry and thought of her, that would be a great compliment, because I’m interested in the same things.
CF: Why is your book titled The Lost Seventh?
SW: I saw a documentary where Mark Knopfler, the guitarist for Dire Straits, was talking about Irish music. He said people have asked him what it was that made Irish music lively even with an underlying feeling of melancholy. He replied that in Irish music they omit the seventh note of the chord, so the chord feels incomplete. I thought it was perfect to describe the undertone of suffering beneath the beautiful landscape in Ireland. There’s a history that is harsh. It’s not full of leprechauns. It’s a deep and emotional place, and for a poet, it’s very easy to sense.
CF: Can we expect to see more poetry to come from future adventures?
SW: I hope so. I don’t know what’s going to inspire me, because it happens years later. As long as I can continue traveling, experiences will inspire me.