Shapeshifting – Timothy Thornton

These poems grow out of ‘the hairline fracture/ writ through every dawn’, repeatingly remaking the forms of jackdaw, sycamore, Icarus. Life courses through them, taking the shape of raindrops that slick bodies with ‘a conductive gel razing separateness’. In a gesture that feels as timeless as it is astonishingly prescient, they build, and commit themselves to endlessly rebuilding, a space-time for joy within this ‘hell without echo/ entirely above ground’.

This thorny and beautiful collection of poems is riven with wants realised, frustrations, moments of desire gnarled up. Amongst the delta, the thicket and the mountain, Timothy  Thornton declares an uneasy truce between the bitter and the euphoric.

Poems and language as cresting, skirmishing, released-exposed things — I can think of no better writer for our times. Thornton’s work draws upon Bosch-monstrous myths, the quiet undeniablities of folklore and the smarting contemporary moment where calculation and recklessness, the seething and the stark, vulnerability and mischief all pluck at narrative to provide its own omens. Full of consolation, grief, and smaller but pressing, bolting, rootling truths that buck between the reader’s hands, we are lucky to be in shapeshifting’s company, watchful all the while.


published, 2024 by runamok press

Timothy Thornton is a writer and musician. Shapeshifting is his eleventh book of poetry. His work was in the new Penguin Modern Poets series, and he has composed and performed music for productions at Battersea Arts Centre and The Yard Theatre. A collection of prose is forthcoming from Pilot Press.