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William Wantling

Born: East Peoria, IL 1933
Pen Name:

Connection to Illinois: Wantling was born in East Peoria, IL. He received a BA and an MA from Illinois State University.


William Wantling (November 23, 1933 -- May 2, 1974) was an American poet, novelist, ex-Marine, ex-convict, and college professor born in East Peoria, Illinois. After graduating high school he joined the Marine Corps until 1955. He served in Korea during 1953. After leaving the Marines he moved to California and eventually had a son with his then-wife Luana. Wantling went to San Quentin State Prison in 1958 convicted of forgery and possession of narcotics. During his imprisonment Luana divorced him and took custody of the child. He was released in 1963, and returned to Peoria. There he married Ruth Ann Bunton, a fellow divorcee, in 1964. In 1966 he enrolled at Illinois State University, where he received both a BA and MA. He taught at the university up until his death on May 2, 1974. Wantling died of heart failure, possibly brought about by his extensive drug use.

Much of his poetry deals with his time spent in Korea during the war. Pusan Liberty is a first person account of the life of a heroin dealer in Pusan, South Korea. And without laying claim is a short and shocking poem about the indifference with which the American forces treated killing.

Initiation is about a couple trying to raise money to sustain their drug (presumably heroin) addiction. Unwilling to rob a stranger, the girlfriend offers to sell her body.

Poetry is about the failure of classic poetic devices to capture the reality and brutality of prison life.

The three poems mentioned above are included in the collection The Awakening by William Wantling (Rapp & Whiting, London, 1968) and the last two are included in San Quentin's Stranger by William Wantling (Caveman Press, Dunedin, 1973). Obscene & Other Poems (Caveman Press, 14 pages, Dunedin, 1972) contains 5 poems in an edition of 600 copies.

Image credit: By Source, Fair use,


Primary Literary Genre(s): Poetry


Selected Titles

In the enemy camp :
ISBN: 0957338589 OCLC: 914491269

Tangerine Press, London : 2015 +

The fix :
ISBN: 0955340225 OCLC: 503563270

Tangerine Press, London : 2008 +