Tim Cumming was born in Solihull and was brought up in the West Country. His poetry collections include The Miniature Estate (1991), Apocalypso (1992, 1999), Contact Print (2002) and The Rumour (2004). His work has appeared in numerous anthologies, including The Forward’s Poems of the Decade, and Bloodaxe Books’ 2010 anthology of poetry from Ireland and the British Isles, Identity Parade. He made the acclaimed Hawkwind: Do Not Panic documentary for the BBC in 2007, has shown his film poems at cinemas and festivals in the United Kingdom and writes regularly about music and the arts for the British and international press.
“The Rapture (Salt Publishing, 2011) is the most visceral poetry collection of the year, from one of Britain’s leading cult writers, an acclaimed music journalist, filmmaker and a star of the small press scene for more than twenty years. His first collection since 2004, and drawing on a decade’s work — from the metaphorical delights of the Improvisations via the intimate, confessional poetry of Chapel of Carbon to the rich loam of landscape and memory fuelling First Music’s evocation of Dartmoor’s wild landscape — The Rapture is Tim Cumming’s strongest and most captivating book to date.”
“Tim Cumming’s The Rapture is a feast of juxtapositions. Through this most painterly of lenses, the reader finds vast panoramas and wonderfully observed detail, turbulences and stillnessness, pasts and present, the ordinary and the magnificent. In these poems, all five senses are engaged; no constellation escapes their ambitious sweep. These poems convince and delight by their extraordinary naturalness, inventiveness, cadence and intimacy.”
– Annie Freud
“Tim Cumming is a brilliant poet in many senses of the word: his poems are urbane, intimately well-observed, and evince a true wit in the sense that would have been understood by Swift or Pope: for instance as with his celebrated one-liners. The poems in The Rapture shine with an aesthetic that is pure in itself and pure satisfaction for the reader. But his work is nearly unique amongst contemporary poets in that, within this artistry, his subject matters, as they consider how a person may deal with a range of experience, are sensitive and profoundly humane. His is a perfect voice of the new times where art meets the heart.”
– John Stammers
“Tim Cumming’s urban landscapes are original, dreamy, surefooted with an intense filmic narrative. An acute sense of time and nature burns through these inspired poems.”
– Martina Evans
It was the morning after the house party.
Everyone had gone to work and she was rooting
through her handbag for cigarettes
and pills. I raised my head from a book
of Impressionist art I’d used for a pillow
and nudged a blister pack in her direction.
She bent down low and let me see her breasts
swing loose in her boyfriend’s work shirt.
‘Impressionism,’ she said, ‘The most
boring art movement in history.’
She was into abstract expressionism,
artists with a hairy back. She took a pill
and gave me a look. Chaka Khan was singing
in the kitchen and that’s how the day started,
falling open like a loose gown or prophetic book.
I pushed the book away, sat up and watched
her walk across the room on bare feet
and drop onto the sofa under the window,
legs falling open like the women in late Picasso,
the line of their haunches jerking
like a cardiograph, a catch on the line,
scribbled shapes bulging like tubers from the mind,
mouths agog, pulling her rosy mouth
to mine, lovers knotting through
the exhibition catalogue.
Brass fanfares from the land of
complementary drinks and every
table nailed down. I can’t find
the colour for my colour. Her
reflection in too many mirrors.
It’s a cloudless blue morning
in September, the kind of day
that starts straight and ends late,
unfurling its sails from the sunset,
the bottle in its bucket of ice
tilted to the cross hairs
of plane trails and true north,
the silent movement of cables
below the surface. From this
point on it’s reclaimed land,
the marks on her wrist
like musical scales.
We’re singing in the shades of
Southwark, a bottle apiece and too
much echo, the heart loosening
like well-trodden boards,
the valve opening and closing
as if the world turned on a hinge
and nights it does, bolts of white cloth
spilling at her feet and no reason,
just a small turn of the shoulders
humming down the high wire,
the full frontal under the greatcoat,
the emperor’s clothes floating
down river, the strong room empty
and the mouth wide open, the heart
beating away at itself like the birds
under the station roof at midnight
fluttering over that famous clock.
He looked back twice, put his foot in it.
The cards were good. The reading
put a crown on his head and
sat him among the harmonies of
The Byrds’ first album, the bar chords
covered in fine dust. No one had
visited for seasons, the dead skin
under the mattress could have reconstructed
Monterey Pop. He loved those early Byrds LPs,
the mono soundboard, the Cold War passed
from speaker to speaker, frame to frame,
musical chairs of the Aquarian age.
He returned to the hotel and slept heavily,
bit his lip on lucid dreaming. Late the next
morning he’d put all that ribbon in a box
and close the lid on it, put a call through.
There was no distance she couldn’t untie
and lie out beside him as if it were the most
natural thing, like two pairs and an ace,
a winning combination.
White City Improvisation
The White Cities were the queens
of France in the books of Joseph Roth,
Austro-Hungarian Jewish writer from between
the wars who died of drink and left us the legend
of the holy drinker and many other books.
I gave one to a lover on her birthday;
Confessions of a Murderer. When she gave
birth to twins her husband threw a big party,
handing out cigars and whistles and striding
around his view of the world like the ship’s
captain from Now, Voyager. I felt more
like Captain Bligh on Mars Voyager,
no new species discovered, just old gods
in hand-me-down shoes. I stood in the hallway
on the edge of nightmares too numerous
to mention, buffeted by the windsock
of the heart’s disease. The ease with metal
of really powerful storm systems rippling
from the jet stream was nothing to my love
for this woman. When we met that winter
it was a world gone mad, packed
and delivered for a flat fee, the stitching
worn from its shoes, the dimmer switch
on the whole scene like the resolution of
some improbable plot device. Backing tapes
were being changed, Hampstead cafés emptied
of old Europeans from the novels of Joseph Roth.
The road ahead had been cordoned off
for a murder investigation, forensics
and emergency bands, the traffic lights
acting as if nothing had happened.
There was no news from her news.
The moon was two days from full,
rising into the London sky from southern seas,
pulling to the curtains of the Pacific.
A water main had burst and I hung a right
down Polar Street, crossed the Harrow Road
into Kensal Rise and kept going, bullet holes
in the walls of the Magdala pub by Hampstead
Heath that winter night, going and gone,
the ghost of Ruth Ellis swaying in
the saloon. They put a rope around her neck
and watched the world turn away
over the depot buildings near the Grand Union
Canal where Eurostar carriages were cleaned
and sent back to service, the Scrubs across
the water and every traffic light turning green
across the city. She left with more than was started.
New characters, combinations stepping out of
the crowd that night, slipping into the
White Cities of Joseph Roth, the bag
on her shoulder, the tinny disco of earphones
full of love songs and flashbulbs, the voice
of the official guide from a long vanished tour
of the palace by the river, home to the king’s
own whipping boy. ‘His lordship
forbade windows from the rear.
He did not like to be overlooked.’
Three Dartmoor Tales
The wind had dropped as the prison
medical officer turned onto the
Mortonhampstead road from Princeton
that night. He could hear the movement
of unseen animals, heavy livestock
on the long tarmac curve towards Bellever,
June 1921 speckled in a dressing mirror.
The writer’s valise is carried to his room,
the fire lit by the landlord’s boy Silus Sleep
and a lamp burns at the window. He reads over
the young woman’s account of the night’s events.
‘I awoke in the morning at three, overtaken
by a feeling of intense cold and creeping dread.
We’d parked for the night by the clapper bridge
near the old gunpowder works and there on
the glass I saw a huge pair of hairy hands
climbing towards the open window.
I remember the air was quite still and silent.
I screamed and made the sign of the cross
and just as suddenly, the hands disappeared.’
The prison medical officer was less articulate.
His daughters survived the accident
by jumping from the sidecar
and they too spoke of a fall in temperature.
The authorities blamed the road’s camber
rather than the girls’ talk of another
pair of hands taking control
As for the driver of the bus that left
the road at the same spot by the old
clapper bridge some 60 years later,
Powdermills in the rear view mirror,
he was dazed and said little immediately
after the accident. ‘Some thing grabbed
the wheel,’ he told the officer.
‘There was no one there but some thing
Other than me drove that bus off the road.’
The Ripe Charge
your ground is not solid.
Shelter from expectation
and select for your fire willow,
juniper, dogwood, birch.
Burn, crush, blend and churn
with sulphur, lead, saltpetre,
and you will have your ripe charge.
Keep it in mind. There are days
like these when we drift
through time, and memory
travels infirm, gathers like kelp,
shapes beneath the tide, time
rubbed in like an aromatic herb,
persistent images knocking
at the brain stem as if they
held the spike of creation,
battering thought in the
grease of self conception.
from The Rapture (Salt Publishing, 2011).
Order The Rapture.
Watch Tim’s videos.