Rosemary Tonks: Literary mystery solved after 40 years



Bedouin of the London Evening: Collected Poems
by Rosemary Tonks, introduced by Neil Astley, will be published on
Thursday 23 October 2014 by Bloodaxe Books, price £9.95, paperback.
The collected poems of Rosemary Tonks, the poet and novelist who ‘vanished’ in the 1970s and whose whereabouts remained a secret until after her death in April, is to be published on 23 October by Bloodaxe Books.

Rosemary Tonks had been a feted poet, novelist, reviewer and well-known figure in the London literary scene during the 1960s. A series of crises led her to renounce literature and to suppress her work. In 1979 she left London and spent the rest of her life as a near recluse in Bournemouth, her location known only to her family. Her disappearance was one of the literary world’s most tantalising mysteries.

A decade ago, Bloodaxe’s editor Neil Astley tracked down Rosemary Tonks, but in line with her wishes and those of her family, he kept her situation secret. He remained in touch with her family, and after Rosemary’s death on 15 April they allowed him to write an obituary and a further piece about her life, both published in the Guardian. The family has since authorised Bloodaxe to bring out a collected edition of her poetry, which will be published on 23 October. Bedouin of the London Evening: Collected Poems, introduced by Neil Astley, will make all of Rosemary Tonks’s published poetry available again for the first time in over 40 years.

Rosemary Tonks (1928-2014) published two poetry collections, Notes on Cafés and Bedrooms (Putnam, 1963) and Iliad of Broken Sentences (The Bodley Head, 1967), and six novels, from Opium Fogs (1963) to The Halt During the Chase (1972), wrote for The Observer, The Times, The New York Review of Books, The Listener, The New Statesman and Encounter, and presented poetry programmes for the BBC. She cut off all ties with the literary world in the 1970s and moved to Bournemouth, where she lived until her death at the age of 85. In 2009 she was the subject of Brian Patten’s BBC Radio 4 documentary The Poet Who Vanished. All her published poetry and a small selection of her prose will be included in Bedouin of the London Evening: Collected Poems, introduced by Neil Astley, due from Bloodaxe Books in October 2014.

Neil Astley is editor of Bloodaxe Books, which he founded in 1978. His books include novels, poetry collections and anthologies, most notably the Bloodaxe Staying Alive trilogy. His anthology The Hundred Years’ War: modern war poems was published in June 2014. He lives in Northumberland and is available for interview about Rosemary Tonks. His piece on her life and work is available here: The Guardian.



London launch of Bedouin of the London Evening

The Disappearing Poet, Wednesday 29 Oct 2014, Kings Place, 90 York Way, N1 9AG

Event exploring the disappearance of two poets,the French poet Arthur Rimbaud in 1879 and the British poet Rosemary Tonks in 1979.

Curated by the Rimbaud & Verlaine Foundation in association with Poet in the City.

Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, 7-9 November 2014

Neil Astley & Brian Patten discuss the life and poetry of Rosemary Tonks.

Details will be posted at the end of July: The Poetry Trust

Press release courtesy of Bloodaxe Books.



4 thoughts on “Rosemary Tonks: Literary mystery solved after 40 years”

  1. After becoming intigued with Rosemary Tonks after hearing Brian Pattens program on radio 4 I managed to get myself a ex library copy of Iliad of Broken sentences (before the prices got silly). I was saddened to hear of Rosemarys passing, I do look forward to buying the new book when it comes out. From hearing the readings on radio 4 if I was totally greedy I would love an audiobook these poems were definitely meant to be read out loud.

  2. I’m so glad this collection is coming out and that Bloodaxe will be publishing. Amazing that such a secret could be kept for such a long time – and very sad. But now the poems will see the light of day – really good news.

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