Emily Wills has a sharp mind and a loving heart. Her first collection was published by The Rialto in 2000, and her second, Developing the Negative, in 2008. Emily is one of those poets who work and re-work their poems, an admirable and recommended practice – look at the gaps between Larkin’s collections.
U A Fanthorpe says her work is ‘economical, exact, exciting…. and I found that once I began reading I simply couldn’t put it down.’ She also says that the poems are ‘strong and very well-crafted,’ and she adds, ‘she has important things to say, and she says them freshly and memorably’.
Emily lives in Gloucestershire, where she works as a GP. The book is dedicated ‘To My Family’, and what comes to mind is the recollection that GPs used to be spoken of as Family Doctors. The poems are peopled with family – her parents, grand-parents, children, and partner, but the wider family that her workplace, and the world, bring in is always present – look at the tender, ‘Counting Snowdrops,’ and how, quietly, passionately, it connects with the millions who protested the Iraq war .
Anthony Thwaite remarks that her poems ‘look into ordinary things and find their strangeness’. ‘She is’ he says, ‘highly intelligent, both scientifically and philosophically…. and her acute knowledge of the things of this world… is touched with magic.’
This is an important second collection and establishes Emily Wills as a strong voice in contemporary poetry.
The Recipe for Marmalade
is coded in my genes, a gift
I can’t refuse. As birds fly south
with shrinking light, so palegrey
January afternoons induce this need
for bitter unwaxed oranges,
glinting sugar landslides,
windows dribbling steam.
The script copperplates warnings,
for sweetness boils hotter,
blood drips thicker than water.
Don’t ask – it’s the recipe
the family use. Don’t touch –
old blades can skin you raw.
Tough sunless fruit
collapses with heat, flabby peel
old woman’s skin under the knife.
Grandmother’s wooden spoon
worn smooth and black, stirs
quilted liquid, whispered histories.
And yet she has handed down
these things: faith, that bitterness
transform to a year of sweet, hope
for a good firm set, and always
her steady stirring grip, fearless
through molten amber.
Emily Willis was born in Hampshire in 1958. She went to medical school in Bristol and worked with her husband at a rural hospital in Malawi in the late 1980s. They have three children and live in Gloucestershire, where Emily works as a part-time GP. Her first collection, Diverting the Sea, was published by The Rialto in 2000, and her second, Developing the Negative, in 2008.
‘Emily Wills’ gift lies in choosing quite ordinary things and seeing through them into strangeness…’
‘Watch out for Emily Wills’ work and be prepared to be surprised…’