Tom Docherty’s first collection, If the Mute Timber, begins ‘not with a book / nor even an attentive ear’, but with the elusive fragment of its title. The poems situate themselves in medias res: among birds or gravestones, between lines of prayer, in the flux of appearances. Places without words become focal points: the poems seek articulation in life before birth and after death; in animal and imagined lives; in works of music, painting, and architecture; and in the varied silences of human and divine relationships. In one sense, the poems are variations on the vanitas – but the transience of life and its artefacts is transposed to an offering, a potential key in which to register the work. When followed to their natural end, fragments become sentences, notes are sung.