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William Oxley: Two Poems
Waiting for Inspiration | A Retreat

Waiting for Inspiration

From a long way off it would reach him
like the talk of atoms or a dim
unproveable god nudging awareness:
the instinct to fly like Icarus

or pure Orphic raptures
moving even the sedentary flowers.
Words, yeasty, the best he’d got
were never enough, not

quite, to spell out what it was he
knew had such beauty:
‘Rainbows of sound,’ he said,
‘that pound in my head,

or poems of water that murmur
on some nervous river.’
Waiting for something to come loose.
Waiting for his unbribable muse.

A Retreat

A busy man with a world of business
at your back, oldest friend
from childhood's grubby miracle days.
And you so troubled, needing escape,
I dwell on the photograph in the musty storeroom
back of your booklined office,
of where you went: a square edifice
like a cissy castle, absurd
on a lonely Cornish cliff-top
pinched and pulled by guzzling winds,
winds that have no care
for time and its gatherings of sorrow.
A place you chose to examine life's
most painful question: what it means
to be quite, quite alone.
But then comes sun thrusting and smiling
through a pokey window
and I know there is no escape for you,
for anyone, from recurrent grief
or the unshakeable dream
where everyone somehow lives forever.

Poet's Biography:
William Oxley was born in Manchester. A poet and philosopher, he has also worked as accountant, part-time gardener, and actor. At present he divides his time between London and South Devon. His poems have been widely published throughout the world in magazines and journals as diverse as Sparrow, The Formalist, The Scotsman, New Statesman, Agenda, Stand, The Independent, The Spectator, and The Observer. He has also read his work on UK and European radio. His most recent books of poetry have been Cardboard Troy (Stride, 1993), Collected Longer Poems (Salzburg University Press, 1994), and The Green Crayon Man (Rockingham Press, 1997). In 1981 the Menard Press published his translations of the poetry of L.S.Senghor (Poems of a Black Orpheus), and in 1996 a volume of his plays was published by the University of Salzburg. A former member of the General Council of the Poetry Society and ex-assistant editor of Acumen. In 1995 he edited the anthology Completing The Picture for Stride. The founder of the Long Poem Group, he co-edits its newsletter; and in 1999 his autobiography No Accounting for Paradise (Rockingham Press) appeared.

For the twelve months from June 2001, William Oxley was the Millennium poet-in-residence for his home district of Torbay in Devon. This was part of the national Year of the Artist scheme. This varied and beautiful seaside area of the South-West of England is known as the English Riviera; but despite its natural asthetic features, it had never attracted much poetic focus. Since his well-publicised residency (fully narrated in two free publications called 'The Residency' pts. 1 & 2, and obtainable for an s.a.e. / i.r.c. from 6 The Mount, Furzeham, Brixham, Devon, TQ5 8QY, UK) the area's large population of over 100,000 people has been exposed to everything from poster-poems and poetry readings to an annual poetry festival, for the first time. During this seminal poetic year for the English Riviera, the poet-in-residence's 'Selected Poems, Reclaiming the Lyre,' (Rockingham Press 2001) appeared and he also published a book for children entitled 'Firework Planet' at the start of his residency. A full interview with the poet can be found on The Poetry Kit: His wife Patricia Oxley publishes 'Acumen Literary Journal', one of the major poetry periodicals in the UK, from the same address as 'The Residency', e-mail

© 1999 - 2003, by the writers featured herein.