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First-stage winner of the Poetry Business Book & Pamphlet Competition.

Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice.

Tenderness, by Tim Dooley: a pamphlet bulging with as much charge and scope as most full collections. In Dooley’s hands, a dull convention becomes an apiary where “passion can harden/ to a dark and sticky/ concentration of cells”. A conker exposes its “coffin-shaded fruit”. Issues of tribalism and social manipulation are played out through the delight-with-violence gladiatorialism of a rugger match. Yet Dooley’s sum exceeds his image-making parts. Exploiting the lightly-clad pamphlet’s ability to flit beneath our radar he targets, from unexpected angles, such ‘big’ themes as historicity and 9-11. Suffused with humane politics, Tenderness enacts its title in the way it moves through both popular and literary motifs (vinyl discs, Narcissus) to close-stitch its fabric with subtle effects. Amalgamating poise and intellect with a thoughtful pacing of each poem’s release, Dooley injects his words into their precision mouldings with a characteristically delicate and perceptive pressure.

After Neruda

Sometimes he’s tired of being a man.
The reflection he sees, in shopwindows
or the cinema screen, takes on a sad
substance, tired and withered: ash-stains
on a shiny piece of suit cloth.

The gents hairdressers, with its cocktail
of smells, stings him to tears.
He wants the sleep of wool or old stones,
to see nothing of enterprises or gardens,
nothing of merchandise, spectacles, lifts.

He’s tired of his feet, of toe-clippings,
of hair everywhere. Of his shadow.
He’s just tired of being a man,
waking like a root in a dark cellar,
absorbing, thinking, counting the dead.

And Monday is the screech of a tyre,
or a sudden petrol flare.
It sees him coming with his prison face,
sends him to hospitals where bones fall out of
the windows, to damp and vinegary stores.

So he walks around, for peace, for forgetfulness,
past caged birds the colour of sulphur, tripe,
dentures in a coffee pot, surgical appliances,
and old men’s underclothes hanging from a line,
dripping their slow, dirty tears.