After editing a new selection of Anne Wilkinson's poetry, Ingrid Ruthig reflects on the hurdles—both societal and psychological—the mid-century poet had to overcome in order to pursue a literary career:
The powerful polarities affecting her life are not only evident in her poems, but also in her private journal writings. In these she could be extremely critical, and entries often reveal her frustrations: ‘Started work on several poems simultaneously about two weeks ago. The pattern is irritatingly familiar. The first heaven flowing rush—this is it! A week later the desolation of knowing that this not only is not ‘‘it," but is atrocious, has no relation, except for the odd line, to poetry. Then the slow laborious reworking.’ She also notes , ‘Have a sudden sense of impatience with the great bulk of contemporary writing of the so-called ‘‘serious’’ type. It (the moderns) is already academic and o so solemn. Those who attempt the simple are thin to the vanishing point. But the greater number, in poetry, are obscure, tortuous and torturing. They give the impression of poets flaying themselves into feeling; paraplegic poets cutting off their legs and begging the pain to come. I’m sick of all these harrowed little fellows dropping their guts on paper!’ Self-deprecating, she adds, ‘I’ve been a prime offender but fortunately am little read,’ then goes on to log recent news of her children and social visits with family and friends. Later she writes, ‘Continual contact with people exhausts my energies and leaves no power or patience for anything else.’
As a female poet publishing in the 1940s and 1950s, Wilkinson's frustration went deep:
It is clear that her preoccupations and the tensions they imposed took a toll on her psyche. She doubted, second-guessed, demanded and criticized while fully acknowledging the double-edged sword of her ‘desire to publish and the sense of horror at s elf exposure.’ She grappled with her sense of isolation and of failure as a writer, as well as wife and mother. As she strove to interrelate the bonds of family and home with those of the universal, of memory, life, death and Nature, she often despaired . The realities of womanhood could not easily be reconciled with the demands of the poetic self.