Oak Bay poet Frank Wilson pours blood, sweat and tears into his work, in part for a lifelong friend and to fulfill his creative needs.
His interest in MS harkens back to childhood in a small Yorkshire village – a snowy first day of school in 1947.
“My oldest friend has MS. He’s the guy I started school with at the age of 5, one of those friends,” Wilson said. “I knew him all through high school, we played a lot of soccer together and a lot of cricket together for a long time.”
When Wilson retired as a university professor just before his 60th birthday, he did a 32-mil walk to raise nearly 2,000 pounds for the cause.
After a career writing on agricultural economics, he sought out some fun, creative outlet for his words.
“I had to write because publish or perish. Unless you get a textbook very few people read it,” Wilson said. “More people have read my short stories or poems than ever ready my academic work.”
His first book Blackberries was released in the UK and he brought it here, showing it to the local MS Society chapter, where he met the art therapy group that wound up illustrating both his first Canadian tome, Chasing Crows, and Apple Man that followed a year ago.
“Some of them are pieces of art that I needed to write a poem about,” he said, backward from the original proposal as he was occasionally inspired by the artwork.
For example one poem in Apple Man “Somewhere on a rail track in Hungary” is inspired by the artwork of Bayla. Her work was in turn spurred by a newspaper article about Syrian refugees stuck in Hungary.
“The members of the art group also did a collage with 12 individual pieces,” he said. “It was so colourful and I had a poem that was a tribute to Ted Harrison … I wrote a poem about ted and put it alongside. It’s as near as you can get to Ted Harrison without Ted.”
Apple Man is still available, with proceeds to the MS Society of Canada, through his website frankwilson.ca.