Rosemary Tonks was born in 1928 in Gillingham, Kent. She was an only child. Her father was a mechanical engineer, who died of blackwater fever in Africa before she was born. She spent her childhood in different schools and children’s homes. She attended boarding school at Wentworth college in Bournemouth, where she wrote her first story On Wooden Wings. The Adventures of Webster, which she also illustrated. In 1949, she married Michael Lightband, a mechanical engineer and later, a financier. They moved to Karachi for his job, where she started writing poetry. Because of paratyphoid, contracted in Calcutta, and of polio, contracted in Karachi, they had to return home. She lived briefly in Paris before returning to London. The couple divorced a few years later, though lived near to one another.
She worked for the BBC, writing stories and poetry and reviewing poetry. Her work was published in magazines and anthologies. She published two collections of poetry.
Following medical issues and personal tragedies, she suffered mental health issues and gave up writing, She went on a spiritual quest, trying various forms of religion. She was almost blind, following detached retinas in both eyes. She lived alone for thirty-three years, burning an unpublished novel as it was spiritually unsound. She travelled to Jerusalem where she was baptised in the River Jordan and never read any books except the Bible after that. She died in 2014. Since then there has been a resurgence of interest in her work.
On Rosemary Tonks
Rosemary Tonks, the lost poet
The Writer Who Burned Her Own Books
The strange case of the ‘lost’ poet: on the trail of Rosemary Tonks
The Poet who Vanished: How Rosemary Tonks became Mrs Lightband of East Cliff
A selection of some of her poems
1948 On Wooden Wings. The Adventures of Webster (children’s)
1951 Wild Sea Goose (children’s)
1963 Notes on Cafés and Bedrooms (poetry)
1963 Opium Fogs (novel)
1963 Emir (novel)
1967 Iliad of Broken Sentences (poetry)
1968 The Bloater (novel)
1969 Businessmen as Lover (US: Love Among the Operators) (novel)
1970 The Way Out of Berkeley Square (novel)
1972 The Halt during the Chase (novel)
2014 Bedouin of the London evening: Collected Poems & Selected Prose