Tim Dooley’s Imagined Rooms

 
 
  
Tim Dooley was born in 1951 and grew up in the West Country. He read English at Oxford and has a research MA in Victorian Poetry from the Open University. He has taught English and Film Studies, in schools and in Further Education, in London and Hertfordshire since 1974. He is reviews and features editor of Poetry London and has worked as a creative writing tutor for Arvon, Writers’ Inc and The Poetry School. He has reviewed poetry for the TLS and co-edited the little magazine Green Lines. His first collection, The Interrupted Dream, was published by Anvil in 1985. This was followed by The Secret Ministry (2001) and Tenderness (2004), both winners in the Poetry Business pamphlet competition. Tenderness was also a Poetry Book Society pamphlet choice. Along with Keeping Time, which was a Poetry Book Society recommendation for Winter 2008, Imagined Rooms brings together the poems Tim Dooley wishes to keep from four decades of writing.
 
 
 

 
 
“The poems in Imagined Rooms invite the reader in Philip Gross’s words ‘to take it all in’. Written between the 1970s and the start of the Clinton and Blair era, they display a voracious imagination, a freedom with language and a hard-bitten compassion. A worthy companion to Keeping Time, also published by Salt, Imagined Rooms is global in its outlook, making what was once strange or distant immediate and present. It offers a view on a world where there is no place to hide and where, in Dooley’s paraphrase of Jaccottet, the poet’s role is to name and look out for ‘every item left at risk’.”
 
 
 
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“Dooley deals with whatever comes – news, memories, encounters, dreams: nothing is out of bounds.”

– Philip Gross, Poetry Review
 
 
 
“Dooley seems to me among the handful of writers today trying to work towards a serious, intelligent poetry of the people – something that is neither frivolous verse nor poetry built for the seminar room”
 
– Peter Sansom, Orbis
 
 
 
“The measured, meditative manner sometimes quickens into a loping inclusiveness of definition, or breaks out in arresting tight-lipped urgencies (including urgent uncertainties) of perception.”
 
– Claude Rawson, TLS
 
 
 
“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.”
 
– Mario Petrucci, PBS Bulletin
 
 
 
“Dooley is that rarest of things, both a public and private poet. Whilst other poets might retreat to domestic subject matter to reflect personal or private insight, Dooley does not shrink from big historical moments and demonstrates seamlessly how such moments inform our inner lives. Perhaps what endures most is his fierce poetic defence for, and belief in, the strength of the human spirit, often in the face of oppressive political forces that threaten to engulf the self. The characters in these poems, and one suspects the poet himself, are searching for something that feels more real; as such, much of the poetry in this collection offers an alternative, an escape route from the standardised and artificial. He is not only a poet of our time but a poet that is needed for our times.”
 
– Christopher Horton, Eyewear
 
 
 
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A Part of the Main
 
 
A figure in a one-man boat
is pulling from his seine
fish that are strange to us.
 
On handkerchiefs of land
grow plantains, peppers fruit.
 
He steers between these fields
watching water shake itself
like a tall haze of sky.
 
The shining evening spins ahead:
his empty market tray,
 
or ice in a long glass of rum.
The tapir-driven taxis pass.
Men talk of bat and ball.
 
I am reading essays
for the overseas exam.
 
Through the poorly-puttied window
close wooden fences lean
like the walls of a shanty town.
 
The script lies open
on a small metal desk.
 
Mr. Persaud writing.
He wants to take a post
in some other, foreign country.
 
Poor prospects, rigidity,
botched new developments.
 
He hopes for wealth, smart buildings
and: ‘if I walk by a lake
with a girlfriend, no-one would talk’.
 
In my lakeless suburb
this back view of a house:
 
A figure in a lighted room
is reading on lined paper
words that are strange to him.
 
An Edward Hopper figure
in the static placeless night.
 
A clothed figure held up by light,
in the night where the world turns
and home is abolished.
 
Wondering what it would be like
in another, foreign country.
 
The zig-zag fire escapes,
fresh coffee, pretzels,
the rattling Legendary El.
 
Someone else’s map invades
the starless blank through which we move.
 
We wear imported clothes,
eat fresh exotic fruit.
This news I hear—the Cortes
 
at gunpoint on all fours—
is local and is real.
 
Griefs pin-prick the night to form
reflecting the reclaimed land
we steer through with our days,
 
joined by some work or hope,
a message from some other country
 
something glimpsed rocking
in the prow of a fisherman’s boat,
wrapped in a coloured magazine.
 
We had to bring it along
so nothing would be strange to us.
 
 
 
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Homefinding
 
 
If you find the new place, and when you’ve climbed
the stairs, unpacked each case and closed with care
each unfamiliar door, perhaps you’ll stare
through these clean windows or, later, leaning
on the desk, you’ll turn your head and say, ‘I’m
glad we chose this place and glad I’m leaving
where I was before. The walls look older
here. Back then I hated walls. I thought they
kept all life outside and it was colder
when they curled around me. I kept away
from rooms before, but now so much has changed.
I like that chair; those flowers you’ve arranged’.
 
The new place is like that. It stuns us by
its size. We didn’t think that warmth would flow
through pipes like that and make no sound. The high
ceilings are light, unstained and even. No
breeze disturbs a curtain, even less
your tired face, your rest. I’m sure you’ll find
the place quite soon and hope that you won’t mind
when you arrive, my asking the address.
 
 
 
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March 19th 1977
 
 
Trying to get things right with terribly yellow
daffodils and the Times at Saturday breakfast,
so as to make it a leisurely morning where
hopes might sort our hours to harmonious
order. Decanting the frozen orange juice,
thinking of friends or having paid the
credit card bill; this is sufficiency. There
is sunlight on the fruit bowl as well.
 
A day for such carelessness. When someone
was crying on the end of the phone, you’d
think something was wrong with the line.
When friends come to dinner, you want more
wine and compliments on the moussaka
and would float through hearing anything
about it—how someone’s life has turned so
grey with worry, nothing in him makes sense.
 
You would. But somehow the loves we have
make their terrible connections clear.
You do hear the weeping remember
what blankness is. You’re there where
hopes fall on their face from mid-leap. It’s like
bad news on the radio of the admired great
and worse and still you cannot help. If you
believed in God, he would have to explain all this.
 
 
 
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The Old Worship

On Station Road the rockabilly fans cradling loud
cassette players slouch with brutal authority like
connoisseurs of art. You arrive with a standard-
lamp and flowers in your hat. My druid priestess.
It’s Saturday in the tiresome world—too late to
start a religion. We make our way along a pavement
crowded with difficulty: unsure who is still
friendly to us, whom we should pretend to love.
 
There is the library to be comfortable in when
your thoughts chatter. Hear the microprint index
whirr. It flies through an orchard of shelves,
their branches heavy with cling-film coloured fruit.
Maybe today there will be something new. My
shining notes glitter in their ache for synthesis.
Beyond the modern glass, the car park with its
new thin trees waits respectfully for spring.
 
Or perhaps there is sorting our furniture again,
moving the carpet we are not tired of, getting
a fresh hold on the room. Then we will be ready
for the cosy months, the long days we take refuge
in. There will be time for sacred music and time for
distractions. Hope for that. Let us ignore the
brown packet of letters, the unfamiliar hand,
the old thin words of those we have failed to love.
 

 
 
from Imagined Rooms (Salt Publishing, 2010).
 
Order Imagined Rooms.
 
Read Tony Williams’s interview with Tim Dooley.
 
 
 
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