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REVIEWS

The North
Review by Sally Baker

Susan Utting's Houses Without Walls celebrates the minutiae of daily life, turning everyday objects into potent memories. She writes about distance and relationships, bones, snow, candles and bedsits. These a re dignified and graceful poems with plenty of domestic detail to create strong images, but emotionally spare enough to allow us to feel, even when surrounded by clutter. Her assured style comfortably tackles past, present and future, ageing and dreams. There are images linking the domestic with the romantic, and a hint of fairytale, as in 'My Mother's House':

My mother's wardrobe's full of ball-gowns,
sandwiches and biscuit barrels full of instant coffee,
there's granulated sugar in her dancing shoes...

'My Mother's House' describes the increasing confusion in an elderly woman's mind through a series of surreal settings. These poems are full of familiar and memorable objects -biscuit barrels and wineglasses, handbags, slippers; but what resonates is what goes on between people, the language of interaction. Even with dramatic subject matter she maintains a sense of calm, as in 'Noise, Delaunay’s Road' where the title is notable by its absence:

and I am taking down fine wedding china, gold-rimmed
white, from off the shelves in the backroom wash-house,
unconverted scullery till the old cracked lino's covered
with a beach of rocks and tiny gravel chips

The poems towards the end of the book document a relationship breakdown. A series of haikus carry messages from a long-distance lover, providing the bridge to the unsentimental 'Go On To The End' and the poignant 'Marks Left':

and the mark that was there
when I took off the ring I never took off, that I still
have ,that I don't want;
that I can't lose.

These are reflective, well-ordered poems with a freshness of detail and an original, theatrical slant on life. They shine torches into unlit rooms, onto past lives, picking out the details of patterned carpets, worn armchairs, and the ghosts who occupy the space.

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