The poet and writer Rosemary Tonks died this week aged 85. She famously disappeared from the literary scene in the 1970s and spend the following decades as a recluse.

The elusive biographical details of her life and of her disappearance have long intrigued me. But perhaps it is best to focus more on what she chose to share with us – her writing – rather on that which she deliberately kept to herself.

from Addiction to an Old Mattress


‘No, this is not my life, thank God…

…worn out like this, and crippled by brain-fag;

Obsessed first by one person, and then

(Almost at once) most horribly besotted by another;

These Februaries, full of draughts and cracks,

They belong to the people in the streets, the others

Out there — haberdashers, writers of menus…’


‘…Meanwhile…I live on…powerful, disobedient,

Inside their draughty haberdasher’s climate,

With these people…who are going to obsess me,

Potatoes, dentists, people I hardly knew, it’s unforgivable

For this is not my life

But theirs, that I am living.

And I wolf, bolt, gulp it down, day after day.’