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This review is taken from PN Review 12, Volume 6 Number 4, March - April 1980.

BEASTLY DEARS Ursula Fanthorpe, Side Effects (Harry Chambers/Peterloo Poets) £1.95

Ursula Fanthorpe was born in 1929, but this is her first collection: a book of individuality and some distinction, a tribute both to her own perseverance and her publisher's judgement. The poems gathered here are in no sense tentative; they show a kind of warm, sure-footed exactitude, a warmth the stronger for being held to its subject by a supple mind, capable of creating that necessary distance between the poet and the ostensible subject of the poem. She places her considerable technical accomplishment at the service of two worlds: a world of people, actual and unique in their chosen or unchosen predicaments, and one of place and historical event brooding beyond and behind the horizons of her human subjects. Her personality is revealed not by disclosure, but by the quality of a look focused sharply on something quite other. She is The Watcher, patient for glimpses of life which remain elusive, secretive; she is concerned with "The very old, the mad, the failures"


And beastly dears with furtive fondling hands
And shamefaced looks,

Finding their nesting-place in hospitals
And prison cells.


In the opening sequence, centred on hospital life, she shows an acute feeling for the qualities of love and care which shore up the collapsing card-houses of human life, probing the dreadful disparities between the fact and the necessary fiction:


He understands. Reads magazines. He bawls
Obliterated meanings at his wife. ...


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