Michael Tolkien

Learning Not to Touch (1998)


..in his carefully selected thirty-four poems...many will recognise a truer image of maleness and love than the one current in the media....Tolkien enjoys the crucial pleasure of the precise witty images: tops of dense firs 'shuffled like tired feet'; 'I let the match speak'; 'At dusk birds sound anxious: flycatchers/ wind up winches; warblers crackle like static'....He knows when to stop, and can create a riddle without being obscure. Yet the careful art never loses sight of what poetry's about: feeling, love, loss, celebration and a little mystery.


( H. Lomas: Ambit 156 )


(One of) Tolkien's predominant themes is separation, of the ways people grow apart or, as the title suggests, learn not to touch: 'You phoned Mum when your period started;/but I was not to be told, and nursed/my tact like a bruise..'(Moving On). And after lighting four candles in a catholic church: 'It is my family, christened to last/ an hour of worship they won't share/ though they are the lights/that lighten my world.' (Absent)....There is a genuine sense of emotional urgency, coupled with solid structures, which makes for authentic poems...(and) if all this suggests that Tolkien is too serious there is also plenty of humour here... ( S.Blyth: Prop )

Minor mainstream poetry at its best, quite faultless, with even a few that T.W's eclectic sweep might have swept.' ( T. Allen: Terrible Work )