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This review is taken from PN Review 154, Volume 30 Number 2, November - December 2003.

AN ACT OF RESCUE U.A. FANTHORPE, Queuing for the Sun (Peterloo) £7.95


While the sheer volume of U.A. Fanthorpe's eighth and longest collection may detract from the richness of its parts, its subtlety rewards many, and many different, re-readings, offering much to enjoy and think about. Since retiring from clerical hospital work, Fanthorpe has tended to mine history books rather than first-hand observation for inspiration, giving way to an often complexly allusive style. However, as this book testifies, her writing, though now more challenging, is no less engaging for the transition. Just as Fanthorpe can make the ordinary sublime, she can also make the esoteric accessible, and semi-forgotten figures such as Boethius and his gaoler emerge here with all the humanity of those we encountered in the hospital poems. Fanthorpe's personal touch is also there in her aside-like footnotes, which do not just help elucidate certain pieces, but, through bibliographical references, encourage us to investigate the subjects ourselves. As this book continually reminds us, preservation of knowledge is not just a theme in her work, but part of its very intention; indeed, for this reader, Fanthorpe's Selected Poems was the nearest state education offered to an introduction to classical studies.

At a time when less career-orientated academic disciplines are under question, Fanthorpe argues their personal and social importance. 'Candidates should pay special attention...' highlights the English exam paper as an outlet for the 'shyest thoughts' of youth; however, in the ominous Orwellian conclusion, this rite is under threat: 'the boys on the clock have their measuring eyes on ...


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