Michael Tolkien

Reflections on



Reflections on the final stages of processing REFUGE  and what lies beyond


 In 2009 after NO TIME FOR ROSES I was convinced that the only way forward would be to put together a ‘Selected’ with a small section of new poems. And today marks the final electronic departure of files for REFUGE ! First ever collection no one has read over to give advice about dross, the need for cuts, mistaken titles; adjusted by only minimal if often challenging discussions in ‘workshops’ with friends and fellow writers. Whatever my reservations (and they gang up!) it seems for the moment very much the product I want, setting free a lot of wisely or unwisely suppressed and rejected material from other collections, and reviving pieces still insisting on being taken seriously even from as far back as 30 years ago, worked at in the light of how I respond to them now, much ‘further on’ in life but not just in age.

  And yet for all such retrospection and revival, the three years of assembling this collection now feels like a clearing away for new beginnings, rather than, as I darkly and pessimistically began to suspect, the farewell final movement, the long adagio that peters out into an unfathomable void!

 Then today, as I write, I look back on an inspiring Woodland Trust event, a guided exploration on foot of usually inaccessible parts of the Burghley Park estates to consider the history and proportions of ancient trees, in particular sweet chestnuts reckoned to be over 800 years old.

 Much dormant imaginative energy comes alive, longs to express itself, then slides back through exhaustion or lack of courage to confront the impulse and its demands. And that’s how a poem either begins or peters out: not as poem at all but as a shock-wave, more like a physical tumult than a cerebral urge to define, record or puzzle over an experience. The inception of a poem is a mood that overcomes you and presents deep and lasting significances in outwardly quite ordinary sequences of daily living. Though it might be described simply as an urge for self-expression, a mode of utterance that gives one an outlet peculiar to and demanded by the perception of a passing moment, in which all suddenly makes a kind of unified sense.


10th May, 2012