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Night Shift
by Jonathan Totman
£10 (pub. 2020)

Jonathan Totman’s debut poetry collection is a bag of exquisite gems. Lightly, discreetly, he takes us by the hand and shows us owls and fireworks, chores and spreadsheets, architecture, lichens and encounters with wild animals, in ways that make us see the world through fresh eyes. Poems about the grief of losing a parent are woven through others exploring the joys of new fatherhood – and ultimately about what it is to be human. Delicate and hauntingly beautiful, this is a collection by a poet who is going places.

Praise for Night Shift:

“Totman has a gift for marrying the natural and the human – sparks of life from every source flare and soar into the darkness, scattering their fine traces on the imagination. Night Shift is a collection to warm the heart – a book rich in humanity, tenderness, colour and light.”

Clare Best

“These bravely tender, beautifully intimate poems speak of the presences and the voids that shape our apprehensions: of ‘the prayer-deep dark’ and the heart’s ‘private lanterns’; of ‘the rich soil of the night’, and of ‘the light // crashing through’. Whether ‘trespassing’ into the ‘rickety barn’ of fatherhood or acquiescing in a wood’s ‘rough shelter’, Totman treads softly, inviting us to bear witness, to feel ‘the flutter and kick of imagination / pushing against absence’. Night Shift is a vigil, and it is also an incitement to attend: to embrace life’s ‘grit’ and ‘balm’, its ‘slip and scrape’ and the everyday ‘kindnesses that stick like burrs’.”

Rebecca Watts


“With an appropriately skilled language of poetic sensibility, and an often understated tenderness, Jonathan Totman with an open generosity invites the reader to share his experiences of Nature and family. Night Shift is an impressive first collection.”

John Lyons


The Farmer

Chances are he never showed, or cared,
but as we scurried into gaps between the bales,
dropped down hay chimneys and
crouched in the prickly dark, our hearts
thudding like boots, we’d see him
peering through slits in the corrugated iron,
hear you lure him into conversation,
the stifling quiet before your call:
all clear.
Mouse-like, we’d emerge,
scramble across the stacks, our limbs
well-versed in their architecture,
down a giant’s staircase
and under the gate
to you, our lookout, our accomplice.

Years later, and I’ve trespassed
into fatherhood: this fortress of yours,
this rickety barn.
Crawling now, off through the open door of summer,
your granddaughter roams,
coats herself in cut dry grass,
the smell of old dry grass.
Are you watching, Dad? Is the coast clear?


(from Night Shift)

Night Shift

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