Night Shift is Jonathan Totman’s debut poetry collection, published by Pindrop Press in 2020.
I attended the online book launch earlier in the year for Night Shift and was left, as is only right with these things, wanting more. I am grateful to Pindrop Press for sending me a review copy.
Night Shift reads as a series of fragments, glimmers of light seen through slices of air. And yet, with each slice, sits a whole fat fully formed image – one I can’t always put my hand to but that has a distinct clarity of feeling. Night Shift is filled with the unspoken, of glances and sensations, illuminated through Totman’s song. I read Night Shift as an entire narrative, of changing seasons and exploration of life and death. It is not complete, and does not seek to be, nothing is pinned down or certain. It is written in the spirit that there is always more to come as life continues. It is written with a sense of circularity, with links and connections bouncing across and through each poem.
Totman shows the reader a world of endings and melancholy, as he deals with the fragility of life and loss, with the death of his father ever present. It is a world also of possibility, of new growth and joy, as memories are embedded into rhythms and rituals of continuing life, and as new form is brought in to the world with Totman’s own growing family.
Totman relishes in the natural world, bringing it up close, dealing with how we are all a part of, and are, nature. Bulbs grow in bellies and mist and dust return to the earth. He uses the cycle of the seasons to show the precarious possibility (and certainty) of life and death, our embedded roles within, through grief and joy. In the first poem of the book Marcescent, the tone is set:
Totman also embraces the domestic and the ordinary, of commuter journeys and baking scones, of first blackberries squashed in new fingers and deliberations on garden borders, each time echoing and bedding in voices and a sense of before. Family rituals continue year on year, with a sense of perpetuation as well as transformation, with memories forming the shape of what is lost but still present. The intangible is held close with golden threads weaving what was into what is, and what will be.
Totman is a skilled observer of nature and people, of the power of the incidental, and the barely mentioned that fills the white space. He brings sparkle to the domestic in a way that reminds us to take nothing for granted, but that if we do, that’s part of life too.
Night Shift is available from Pindrop Press here.