Michael J. Wilson
Michael J. Wilson thinks it might have been the 2006 movie The Prestige that sparked his obsession with Nikola Tesla. The film, which was about magicians, featured David Bowie in the minor role of the eccentric Serbian inventor who was born in 1856 and died in 1943. “It’s the only thing, culturally, that I can think of that would have given me Tesla, because I didn’t know who he was before that. Then I started reading about him, and the deeper you go, the weirder he gets,” Wilson told Pasatiempo. His first book, A Child of Storm (Stalking Horse Press, 2016), includes numerous poems that speculate about Tesla’s inner life, his work and friendships, and his relationship with his father, an Orthodox priest who did not want his son to become a man of science.
Wilson has an undergraduate degree from the College of Santa Fe. He wrote many of the book’s poems while living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and earning an MFA in poetry at the New School for Social Research. In 2012, after seven years in New York, he returned to New Mexico and now teaches as an adjunct instructor at Santa Fe University of Art and Design, works parttime at Back Road Pizza, and writes a food column for the Santa Fe Reporter. He was raised in and around Oxfordshire, England, until he was thirteen and his father retired from the U.S. Air Force. Wilson attended high school in a somewhat rural area of Pennsylvania before “escaping to the desert for college.”
Sept. 11, 2001, happened during the first weeks of his junior year, and poems about the terrorist attack and its aftermath are included in A Child of Storm — both from the perspective of a college student and then later, as a resident of the city who senses the divide between people who understand New York before the towers fell, and those who can never know it that way. “I think September 11 was the first time I saw media clouding what was happening in real time,” he said. “We didn’t know that morning if we were seeing the planes hit the towers live on TV, or if it was a replay. And the constant re-showing of the towers coming down — I don’t know how to explain it. It was like a fugue state.”
Much of A Child of Storm concerns the way memory works in flashes to push a narrative around in time, as well as the memory of nature before land was developed. “To get back to nature now, you would have to violently destroy what we’ve put on top of it. I’m also using nature to talk about the loss of my childhood — and the loss of both of my grandmothers and my mother’s sister, who all died from breast cancer within 18 months, while I was in grad school. There was a time when I was on Amtrak a lot, going back and forth from the city to funerals.” The push-pull between the city and the country recurs in several poems and includes the lure of the desert. “I grew up in the country because Air Force bases are always in the