The Tightrope Walker

The Tightrope Walker: Autobiographical Writings of Anne Wilkinson

Edited by Joan Coldwell
Copyright Date: 1992
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt2tth2b
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  • Book Info
    The Tightrope Walker
    Book Description:

    Anne Wilkinson (1910-61) was one of the most celebrated Canadian writers of her time. Her success as a poet came against all odds: nothing in her background, from geography to genealogy, would have suggested a literary career. She lived her life and practiced her art in Toronto at a time when the nerve centre of Canadian poetry was unquestionably Montreal. She was born into the highest levels of Toronto society, a daughter of the very distinguished Osler family. And yet she wrote poetry, and was published to great acclaim, through decades of marriage, child-rearing, divorce, and illness.

    From December 1947 to July 1956, the years during which she wrote her most successful poetry, Wilkinson kept journals; in due course she also wrote an autobiography, part of which appeared in a literary magazine shortly after she died. Joan Coldwell brings together the complete text of the autobiography with the poet?s journals, some samples of her poetry, and a moving exchange of letters between Wilkinson and her mother.

    The journals vividly reveal the inner workings of the writer?s mind and her struggles to create in a difficult environment. With an immediacy and power that only journals can achieve, these writings explore the nature of the creative process in a context of daily realities that are often harsh and sometimes heart-breaking. The autobiography tells the story in a different way, rearranged to fit the forms of a ?legitimate? genre.

    Together with Coldwell?s introduction, these writings present a unique and moving self-portrait of a poet who died too young, at the peak of her career. This volume celebrates Wilkinson?s life and work, and the spirit that informed them.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8244-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xviii)

    ‘I am constantly in love with life and always on the brink of despair,’ Anne Wilkinson wrote in her journal on 22 March 1954. In the two volumes of poetry published in her lifetime we find the same dichotomy: her verse sparkles with pleasure in a range of sensual experience but it is also often tinged with sadness and pain. One of her best-known poems, ‘Lens,’ speaks of this duality: her poet’s eye is blessed with moments of radiant vision but it must also unflinchingly record ‘the mutiny within.’ Such tension also pervades the two forms of life writing brought...

  4. Editorial Note
    (pp. xix-xx)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  6. Chronology
    (pp. xxiii-xxvi)
  7. The Journals
    (pp. 1-150)

    I know nothing about 1948 except that I start it ill, without ‘great expectations.’

    André Gide said ‘O Lord permit me to want only one thing and to want it constantly.’ O Lord me too – but other people want a hundred things from me and for me.¹

    A prison — flesh for walls and bones do hinge the door that sickness locks.

    E.M. Forster’sAspects of the Noveldances – read it all on Christmas Day.

    Stendhal has the virtue and vice of diamonds. FinishedLe Rouge et Le Noirrecently.

    Am in a minority of one in regard to Rebecca West’s...

  8. Poems
    (pp. 151-162)
  9. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  10. The Autobiography
    (pp. 163-248)

    I lay beside my mother and watched the moonlit sea through her bedroom window. It breathed, exhaling breakers on the sand, became my drowsiness. I slept.

    Many times the dark took me by the throat and shook me, and I, surviving, sought the benediction of my mother’s presence, her human warmth and the flowery smell of her bed. In early childhood my sister and I had sniffed her often and lovingly. We told her she smelled of roses and lilies and grass. It wasn’t a matter of soap or scent; she, as each of us, had a personal smell, individual...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 249-258)
  12. Glossary of Persons
    (pp. 259-266)
  13. Index
    (pp. 267-275)