Rosemary Tonks (born in 1928) was an English poet and author. After publishing two poetry collections, multiple novels and prose pieces, she disappeared from the public eye after a lengthy illness.

Tonks worked for the BBC, writing stories and reviewing poetry. She published two collections and poems in many literary magazines and journals, as well as six novels. Her work appears in many anthologies, including Anthology of Twentieth-Century British and Irish PoetryOxford Book of Twentieth Century English VerseBritish Poetry since 1945, and The Firebox: Poetry in Britain and Ireland after 1945 (ed. Sean O’Brien). Tonks’ poetry is well-known for presenting a stylised view of London literary subculture, full of hedonism and decadence, which seemed to both attract her and repulse her.

Tonks published two collections, Notes on Cafés and Bedrooms (Putnam, 1963) and Iliad of Broken Sentences (Bodley Head, 1967). After both books went out of print, she was discussing a further edition of her work with Phoenix Press until 1980 when the project was abandoned following her conversion to a fundamentalist form of Christianity. Tonks disappeared from public view and refused telephone calls from friends, family and the media.

Following her death in April 2014, Neil Astley published an obituary and then an article in the Guardian, going to write that she “turned her back on the literary world after a series of personal tragedies and medical crises which made her question the value of literature and embark on a restless, self-torturing spiritual quest”. Her health deteriorated following an emergency eye operation which left her almost blind, and in 1979 she moved to Bournemouth to recuperate. She later made the decision to “confront her profession” and burned the manuscript of an unpublished novel. “Obliterating her former identity as the writer Rosemary Tonks, she dated her new life from that ‘second birth’.” (Astley).

Poems by Rosemary Tonks

Badly Chosen Lover - Rosemary Tonks