Panopticon—Brian Comber

‘Panopticon’ is Brian Comber’s first poetry collection. He’s been writing poems for many years, initially writing verse to mark the departures of work colleagues. This diverse collection includes poems on the themes of childhood, the natural world, travel and, with reference to the title poem, the role of the State. He draws on personal experience and his interest in nature and history. Brian lives in Worcestershire and enjoys spoken word events in and around Worcester.

Brian Comber launched Panopticon in June 2021. You can order your copy here.

UK £6.00 +P&P


Historically, a panopticon was a circular prison with cells arranged around a central tower from which prisoners could at all times be observed. It is also the name of an optical instrument that is a combination of a telescope and a microscope. I can’t help thinking that in an age of digital surveillance, it may have a more sinister shade of meaning.

In the preface to this collection Comber says that there is no unifying theme that binds the poems together. He tells us that “some arrived almost fully formed whilst others changed shape through numerous edits”. He hopes that they will “entertain, surprise and, to some extent, unsettle readers”. These are well-chosen words because the book does just that on all three counts. Neil Leadbeater for Write Out Loud, read more here

Comber’s perceptive eye and fluid writing style flow through this entire collection. Nature, crime, history, voyages, land and home come together across poems, as Comber reveals his skill as a poet, as a storyteller, and as a keen observer of the spectrum of humanness. Beth O’Brien—poet

Like the Panopticon of the works title, Brian Comber quietly observes life and reflects on what he sees in the world around him, the gentleness of his tone standing in stark contrast to the harsh realities of the everyday.
Comber’s sharp eye misses nothing, criticises nothing, leaving the judgment to the reader, who is suddenly more aware that their eyes have been opened.
Pause while you read this book, take time to drink the words in slowly; savour them. You will return to them again and again. Roz Levens—author

Contrast is what makes life sing. Brian Comber’s poetry juxtaposes the surface detail of our everyday normal with the depths of our inner reality. His verse links the seen and the unseen with corridors of emotion illuminated by flares of lucid empathy and understanding. Brian aims to entertain, surprise and, sometimes, unsettle. He succeeds. Jon Starkie—author

In Panopticon, Brian Comber has created something rich—in descriptive detail and feeling alike. This pamphlet is weighted with words that will take you somewhere elsewhere entirely, allowing a reader to shift time zones and landscapes, but in a way that feels coherent as a complete collection. Throughout, I was especially struck by Comber’s ability to pull me in with a first line—no easy feat, and surely the mark of a good writer—and from there I was committed to whatever each narrative had to say. There is, then, very much a narrative here, or rather a set of them, with stories and characters that you can invest in, even for the space of only a single poem. This completed work shows Comber as a considerate poet and storyteller, with a keen eye, and Panopticon was a sincere joy to read from start to finish because of that. Charley (Charlotte / C.S.) Barnes—author, poet, and lecturer

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