Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Sleepless Nights, Dennis TomlinsonThe jacket is bright blue. The pamphlet is only A6 in size so very small. It bears the logo of Stevenage Writers Group in white, a white bar with a vertical wall bearing two or three windows. The title is in bold lower case in the bottom blue third of the jacket, below this in ordinary lower case are the words 'by Dennis Tomlinson', same lowercase sans serif font.

Maverick Mustang Manuscripts, 2019  £2.70

Love of a subdued kind

This pocket-sized pamphlet won my heart before I even got to the poems.

This was thanks to its understated foreword, in which the reader learns that some of the poems inside ‘were once published in small and defunct magazines’. How could I not relate to that?

And then the poet describes his themes, which are not in the least dramatic. They are quiet and unassuming: ‘nature, travel [ ... ] exploration of childhood and family’ and — best of all — ‘love of a subdued kind’.

And so this poet does the opposite of most poetry publications. No grand claims. No lyrical endorsement. Just a hope that the poems will ‘find some resonance with the lives of others’.

And they do. Doesn’t everybody recognise something in ‘love of a subdued kind’? And then suddenly there it is, in quietly asserted images, like the last stanza of ‘The Pyramid’:

Proudly you walk away
into the crowd, your hair
burning in the darkness.

Or section XV from the affecting title sequence, ‘Sleepless Nights’:

a magpie cackles
on a tall bush

grey clouds run ahead
sharp noses forward
sun on their tails

I think of you
I think of the country

This ordinary experience, offered simply, with little or no adornment, certainly resonates with me. Its slow, simple progression seems particularly appropriate for our current C-19 situation: ‘I think of you / I think of the country’. 

I even like the way there are little comments about the book the author is reading during his sleepless nights (‘I read LC’; ‘I stay in the kitchen / weigh up LC / post a review / into the ether’; ‘I read TH: suddenly / We have met the magician’).

I know practically nothing of what is going on in the poet’s life, and I know everything. This is my life too.

Helena Nelson

Contact the author to purchase at d.c.tomlinson[at]aol.co.uk