Poet Emily Wilson visits PSU for talk, reading

Poet Emily Wilson came to Portland State on April 22 for a small reading and Q&A session.

Native to Maine and educated at Harvard, Wilson has two published books of poetry, The Keep and Micrographia. Her third collection, The Great Medieval Yellows, will be published in 2015.

Introduced by James Galvin of Boston Review, Wilson’s poetry was described as “poetry of exquisite balance. Generous in her spareness, clear in her complexity, matching wildness of diction with precision of sense.”

Wilson read from her first two volumes, commenting on her influence from time spent in Missoula, Montana, and described some of her poems as landscapes and still lifes.
Reading and contemplating with quiet force, it was no surprise to hear that much of her poetic inspiration also came from Emily Dickinson.

“I’d say Dickinson was the most primary model for me in starting to write,” Wilson said. “What was there for me was the sense of words having a kind of density.”

In Wilson’s new volume, she was inspired by a book called The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting by Daniel Thompson.

“I stumbled on this book in a used bookstore, and it became very important to me as I kept reading. It’s a book that really goes back and tries to figure out what the medieval painters used,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s fascination with color and how it can be used as a literary device is evident in her words.

“I’m very fascinated with terms for color, with the nature of color,” Wilson said. “I’m fascinated with the perception of color and the way that artists seem to possess color in individual ways…It’s sort of seeing how color becomes the language, in some ways.”

When asked about her method for developing her sense of creative description, Wilson owed it to something many struggle with.

“Patience,” Wilson said. “Staying with something for a while and trying to release yourself from the pressure of getting it right.”

Wilson now lives in Iowa City, Iowa, where she was educated at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

“I’ve had a long interest in craftwork,” Wilson said. “When I was a student in graduate school, you could learn how to make books and use a quill pen, things like that. I got very absorbed in that and learned how to use a letterpress.”

Wilson said she usually makes a book every 10 years, but she’s trying to be better.