Frank Wilson didn’t realize the link that he was making when he titled his latest book, Chasing Crows.
It wasn’t until after Wilson had published his second collection of poems, illustrated by members of a local multiple sclerosis art therapy group, that he learned from contributing artists, just how aptly it was named.
“They said, ‘Don’t you think that chasing crows, that’s what MS is like?’” Wilson said, holding a copy of the freshly-bound book in his south Oak Bay living room. “Chasing crows is MS. It’s always there. It’s persistent. As one of them said, it’s evil. It’s that kind of nasty disease that’s unpredictable – just like the crows of Victoria. It never goes away, and they don’t, do they?”
Wilson, a retired professor of development economics, had already successfully raised about $5,000 towards MS support in England through the sale of his first self-published collection of poems, Blackberries. After having settled into Oak Bay – the 71-year-old Yorkshire import moved here six years ago to be with family – Wilson decided to try version 2.0 on Canadian soil.
Wilson pitched the idea to the South and Central Vancouver Island chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and soon he was included in every Wednesday art session at the North Park location. There, he gave the amateur artists 25 poems, with the hope that his words might pique their creative minds and yield complementary work. While that did happen, it wasn’t the sole outcome.
One artist from the group presented Wilson with an oversized mid-century modern painting of a cupcake and instructed Wilson to go ahead and write something to fit the piece. That clearly wasn’t a part of the original plan for the budding writer, who has now recently-landed a two-book deal in the United Kingdom for his short fiction.
“It was a terrible hardship. I had to go and do my homework at Crumsby’s.”
And so the words” toasted coconut frosting” unexpectedly found their way into the book, along with a murder of tiny crows flitting across each page, also the larger cover image inspired by Wilson’s title poem. In all, Chasing Crows includes 17 paintings alongside 43 poems.
“They really got into it, and I really got into it, to be honest.”
Wilson’s desire to support those diagnosed with MS sprang from watching a longtime friend deal with the effects of the neurological disease for some 30 years.
“It’s about raising money, but it’s a bit more than that. It’s a positive signal about MS,” he said. “It’s a positive signal about what you can do even though you have very dear problems sometimes.”
Chasing Crows is available for $25 at the MS Society (1004 North Park St.), Crumsby’s Cupcake Café, (2509 Estevan Ave.) or directly through Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org. If all of the books sell – and about two-thirds have since it was bound in May – Wilson and the artists will have raised $8,000 towards the MS Society and the art therapy program.