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Tenderness - Tim Dooley

Review by Mario Petrucci

If (as Orwell thought) the pamphlet is a one-man show, then this quarter had all the sprawling and varied individuality of the Edinburgh Fringe: the irrepressible prosody of John Stammers' black-humoured, blue-eyed takes on ee cummings (Buffalo Bills); Fiona Sampson's allusive-elusive fingering at the tensioned intervals of language (Hotel Casino); Florence Elon's visual pointe work (Hearing Eye); Dan Wyke's lyrical narrative unity in Scattering Ashes; Tony Lopez's daisy-chained cut-ups, resolutely pounded into powder (Equal Signs). And Tenderness, by Tim Dooley: a pamphlet bulging with as much charge and scope as most full collections.

In Dooley's hands, a dull convention becomes an apiary where "passion can harden/ to a dark and sticky/ concentration of cells". A conker exposes its "coffin-shaded fruit". Issues of tribalism and social manipulation are played out through the delight-with-violence gladiatorialism of a rugger match. Yet Dooley's sum exceeds his image-making parts. Exploiting the lightly-clad pamphlet's ability to flit beneath our radar he targets, from unexpected angles, such 'big' themes as historicity and 9-11. Suffused with humane politics, Tenderness enacts its title in the way it moves through both popular and literary motifs (vinyl discs, Narcissus) to close-stitch its fabric with subtle effects. 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.


copyright mario petrucci 2001