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Review by Frank Dullaghan

Houses Without Walls
by Susan Utting

Susan Utting is a good poet. This becomes very apparent as soon as you start reading this collection. There is a confidence and playfulness in the writing that makes you trust her. She knows what she's doing.

I was born at the trip of a young woman's
foot, a tumble that rushed me, unready
to air, light, gravity's chill.
(Catechism)

There is also intelligence and craft in these poems. Utting has a sure eye for appropriate detail. In a poem about buying tulips for herself ('For Herself') she describes how when the tulips open they'll be shocking yellow, frilled/and fluted at the edges, they'll be vulgar skirted chorus girls." and later, "opening their rude/mouths wider, wider still until they're flaunting/their sex at her, their dusty little bright-heart centres." It's this metaphorical use of detail that lifts the poem to a whole new level, so that a poem about buying tulips for oneself is not just a sad/funny little piece but something much more complex altogether. What is interesting too, is the use of the future tense. We realise that this flaunting of their sex is what's expected, that's why the tulips were bought. The poem becomes one about loneliness and sexual frustration while at the same time, through its playfulness, does not wallow in this but accepts it as part of life.

It is this skill that Susan Utting brings to poems about relationships and childhood so that they each carry an emotional force beyond that apparent in the easy flow of the words. As I said, she's a good poet. You should buy this book.

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