Mike and Diane Wilson -
Free Spirit Writers
The Iron Harvest
The Iron Harvest contains poetry and prose reflecting Diane's interest in the First World War, particularly the Ypres Salient and Poperinge, where Tubby Clayton opened a "Haven from Hell," Talbot House.
Comments from readers:
It has been a long-standing tradition for honorary wardens to come and look after Talbot House, in Poperinghe, Belgium. In my capacity as a house-guide, I have had the good fortune to meet many of these dedicated volunteers. When I first met Diane Wilson I instantly knew that she too was totally committed to her assignment. Now she has added an extra value to her stay. As a writer, Diane wanted to share her experiences and impressions with anyone who takes an interest in the human side of The Great War. Diane's love and devotion for this house and its history shines from these pages, making The Iron Harvest a gripping personal view on what The Salient really means. - Bertin Deneire
The author has woven a very personal tapestry, at times light-hearted and almost jaunty, as I imagine some of those first volunteers would have been, and at others melancholy and filled with pathos, as those who were about to return for another stint in the mud-filled wretched trenches may have felt. Diane, at times, bares her soul, revealing her bitterness at the sacrifices made, the cruelty of it all, the harshness of the life and the grim, relentless battle to cliing to life that happened every day for men (some hardly more than boys) uprooted from the safe sanctuary of their homes to crouch bemused and shivering up to their knees in slime, blood and filth. - Mark Marsay, Editor, The Great War magazine
The book is a fascinating document, and I love the style of its writing, with the short prose passages interspersed with your moving poems and photographs. I particularly enjoyed your account of the evening you spent in the Chapel (My First Time), and the poem about the spoon (which made me weep), Cemetery Beauty, the stranded youngsters, To Entertain You, and the comments on those incredible war poems of Owen and McCrae. But it is unfair to single out these pieces, as the whole collage of experience that makes up the book needs to be viewed as a single entity. Or should I say organism? For your book brings The House and the people to life so vividly. - Alison Chisholm, poet, author of seven collections of poetry and others on the craft of writing poetry
Throughout her collection, Diane leads us between the past and the present, both in terms of place, as in the Market Place in her prose piece So What, and through characters as in Tyne Cot Teenagers and Lessons in Lijssenthoek, which joins a child and her mother to her great, great, great grandfather. Despite the emotions she has obviously felt in the writing of this book, Diane has handled her subject with a delicately light touch and with some humour. Here there are unknown stories as well as familiar ones like the Christmas Truce, all made more real, through both her poems and her prose. - Maureen Almond, poet, author of Hot, Tailor Tacks, Oyster Baby and The Works
I can relate to your writings because I was born in 1917 and my Dad was out there in France. My Mom lost two brothers and as a child I saw her cry every Armistice Day. Your poems are so soul-searching - for who would think of the closeness of a man for his dying horse? The chapel, too, one can almost feel the souls of those men. The map of thousands of fingers which touched it. But it was when I reached Pool of Peace and Calm Waters that the tears flowed and I had to put the book aside. My heart was too full. You have captured what must go through people's minds when they visit the cemeteries and Menin Gate to hear the Last Post. - Thora Beddard, Friday Writers' Group
Your book is lovely. I particularly liked your prose pieces, how you give tons of information in such a readable way and manage to convey so much emotion at the same time. Really spot-on. Brilliant record of Talbot House. - Sue Vickerman, winner of the 2004 Biscuit Poetry Competition and author of The social decline of the oyster catcher
The Upper Room has always been a magical place for me. And this is a bit strange for me to say as I am absolutely not a religious person. I dare say of myself that I am a very down to earth person. And still . . . there is something about that place. Is it the fact that I realise that thousands of men came to visit that attic with barely a few days (or less) to live? Is it the simplicity of the chapel? There is a warmth which I cannot explain. A visit to Talbot House without visiting the Chapel is no visit at all - that is for sure. - Jacques Ryckebosch, Talbot House, Poperinghe
The book is obtainable at Talbot House.
The book was published by Biscuit Publishing Ltd.