The Equilibrium Line


Winner of the BANFF Mountain Fiction and Poetry Award 2019
Shortlisted for the Boardman Tasker Mountain Literature Award 2019

In its intensity and preoccupation with line and space, the climbing experience is akin to poetry. These poems celebrate climbing in all its forms: indoor walls, hill walks, bouldering on Yorkshire grit, traditional climbs in Derbyshire and North Wales, ice climbs on Ben Nevis, the Alps and further afield. They explore risk, falling and finding balance – on rock, ice, and other places in our lives.

For poetry readers, this collection opens a window into the world of climbing, its joys, risks and motivations. For climbers, it showcases poetry’s power to express and explore why we climb.


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What Writers and Critics Think

  • An outstanding second collection by the poet and novelist examining ambition, failure, risk and where to draw the line in settings ranging from the gritstone crags to the Alps and further afield.

    Roger Hubank, Chair of Judges, Boardman-Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature 2019
  • David Wilson's lyric poems are beautifully-crafted, heartfelt, and extremely relatable. They chart a lifetime's fascination with rock climbing and mountaineering, and pay homage to presiding spirits in the climbing world. Each poem is like a first climb – full of fear and joy and gratitude.

    Helen Mort, 2019 Book Competition Jury, Banff Mountain Book Competition 2019
  • [A] collection intent on expanding poetry’s province. Shortlisted for the Boardman Tasker award for mountain literature, these precise, neat poems explore climbing in all its forms ... Wilson has an eye for the vivid image, allowing him to bring distant landscapes into sharp focus: “the single bivouac light / on the black mass of Argentière Wall, / its tiny flame in a mineral world.” He is also able to shed light on climbing’s unusual appeal, when “held in place / by drystone walls / green fields bring / my mind to order”.

    The Guardian


What Wilson offers us is not only a careful meditation on the many aspects of mountain activities but also a gentle probing inquiry into what happens to us in the process. How we meet the challenges, cope with loss, and reflect on our memories of mountain days. The treasury of sight and colour whether of place or the seasons; the number of hills a daysack has summited with you, and how odd bits of kit can suddenly remind you ‘about couloirs bulging with fat blue ice’ are all noted and enjoyed. These are the mature reflections of an experienced climber who honours all the joys of involvement in mountaineering and acknowledges the sorrows we may undergo along the way. – Donald M.Orr, Scottish Mountaineering Club Journal, November 2020

David Wilson is a poet I admire who has become as sure-footed on the page as on the rock face. He weighs each line, balancing risk against love, the latter realised in some of the most moving poetry I have read in recent years. Technically adept with a great emotional range plus real engagement with and for this world, Wilson’s first book is a tremendous debut. – Ian Duhig

It is a brilliantly imagistic rendering of a place. The finding of likeness between Elvis and Everest, at first sonic, then extending to their shared bulk and slightly “soiled” status, is truly spectacular. – Paul Muldoon on David’s poem, ‘Everest’

I guess all of us have had moments in climbing so intense that they’re burnt onto our memory forever. For me, no art form is better equipped to capture and communicate that intensity than poetry. David Wilson’s superb new collection of poems inspired by climbing, The Equilibrium Line, ranges far and wide across its interior and exterior worlds, from bouldering at Almscliff, through summer trad at Tremadog and ice on the Ben to big days in the Alps.

Climbing has produced much fine literature, but nothing like enough poetry: writers like Ed Drummond, David Craig and Andrew Greig have been lonely voices over the years. But there are signs that situation is starting to change. David Wilson, along with Helen Mort, is a key contemporary voice and I urge everyone interested in climbing and literature to listen.  Like the migrant birds he meets ‘On the Misty Summit of the Ben’, he has transformed the whiteness into song. – Climber magazine, Nov/Dec Issue, 2019

From Harrison’s Rocks to Everest, these poems put me back in the moment of being.Doug Scott

These poems bring back great memories. And I empathise with the questions some of the poems raise.  – Chris Bonington on Slope

From Harrison’s Rocks to Everest, these poems put me back in the moment of being. – Doug Scott


David Wilson lives in North Yorkshire. He has climbed extensively in the UK, Alps and further afield, at a standard best described as erratic. Paul Muldoon awarded him the 2015 Poets and Players Prize for his poem ‘Everest’. His debut poetry pamphlet Slope was published in 2016. Prior to writing poetry, David occasionally wrote fiction, both short stories and a novel, which was praised by The Times as a ‘tour de force’.