Tottering State

By Tom Raworth


O Books
Original Language(s)
Additional Credits
Cover art by Richard Tuttle
Design by Guy Bennett
Edition, Year
First Edition, 2000
In Print

Tottering State was first published by Geoffrey Young’s The Figures in 1984. In 1988 a British edition, which included poems written after 1984, was issued by Paladin Books. This new, third edition of Tottering State retains 1984 as the cut-off date and adds a few earlier poems by one of Britain’s finest poets. Also included in this edition is the complete text of Writing, long out of print. Tom Raworth’s lines are “passing near the black hole/in ordinary flat space” radically estranging the visual field by jumping time. Robert Creeley has said about Raworth: “[He] is the one who’s truly most interesting to me in England at the moment. I’m fascinated by what he’s doing. He’s an extraordinary poet.”

Tom Raworth
Tom Raworth (1938—2017) was born and grew up in London. During the 1970s he traveled and worked in the United States and Mexico, returning to England in 1977 to be Resident Poet at King’s College, Cambridge, in which ... Read More

There’re a lot of books of poetry asking me to read them, but I regret having put off Tottering State for so long. For one thing, aside from the sly precisions of Raworth’s musical ear, the constant bitter ironies, and the poised sense of line, the poetry is really a great deal of sheer fun.

— Mark Scroggins at Culture Industry


Praise for Tottering State

The writings in this Tottering State are ardent, wry, wise, brilliant—they are subtle and momentous. They are responsive to the minute as to the massive pressures that language and life exert. They are explorations, not outcomes. And yet they make demands, and consequences continually occur. Some of these consequences are funny (Tom Raworth has a tragedian’s sense of the comic as one of life’s fated inevitabilities), some are frightening or sad. These are among the greatest writings of our times.

— Lyn Hejinian

In the permanent trouble of postmodern the glassblown lucky striking into the doped heart of the time bomb bar tab royal pardoning handlewithcare gestures of a little/out side that’s mine are the fierce loving exquisiteness of Tom Raworth. The work is a comasyouare ritual reengagement with the music of those crystals set/in joints of syntax never administered or bullied or mediated but instantaneously politic in a civil war ahead of the traffic.

— Heather Fuller

Single-handedly, Tom Raworth has restored the value of quickness to English poetry. His is the alacrity of Shelley, of Byron, of Gerard Manley Hopkins, reinforced to meet a modern urgency. It is poetry of sensation, intelligence flashing down the spillway, faster than thought.

— Bill Berkson

Brides in the source nail the soap-opera out of doowops? And then the parnassians for milfoils without floor-leaders. The Raworth loves to hum them toward the endeavor.

— Clark Coolidge

Tom Raworth wants to get all the way round the railroad earth before the bell rings, one of the few who even try, & we get these tottering states, equal parts light and dark of mind, lavished on us when he does, & he often does.

— Anselm Berrigan

Stretched tight across Life while allowing both mind & eye to breathe, this writing orients reading on the set where the action is. The backcloth is limitless/polychromatic (& no, the walls of the ego are not the walls of the set). As Shorty Fleming noticed while out picking plums: “Tom Raworth’s ( )ed through that fence.”

— Miles Champion

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