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This review is taken from PN Review 115, Volume 23 Number 5, May - June 1997.

HOME AND ALL THE REST OF IT SUSAN WICKS, The Clever Daughter (Faber) £6.99
KATRINA PORTEOUS, The Lost Music (Bloodaxe) £6.95
RITA ANN HIGGINS, Sunny Side Plucked (Bloodaxe) £8.95
RUTH SILCOCK, A Wonderful View of the Sea (Anvil) £7.95
RUTH BIDGOOD, The Fluent Moment (Seren) £5.95

Susan Wicks asks in her poem 'Pigeons', 'What if they home/on nothing, beating in smaller circles/till home comes?' This sums up a number of the major themes of the collection. The circularity of generations; the need to fly somewhere to escape pain or to remain safe; listening to what has not been said, or what the natural world is trying to tell us. Wicks finds a voice for the spaces outside action, situation, and indeed words.

Burrowing into what in 'Listen With Mother' she describes as the 'busy music of absence', most of the poems centre on the death of a mother and filial relations, where the daughter has become the protector of her parents, one lost to grief and the other to death, and of her own daughter. Accordingly, the 'I' in many of the poems is the same subject, and it speaks from forms which enhance rather than hinder the serious subject matter. Wicks uses blank and free verse most effectively, constructing tightly-packed run-on lines which gently bait the reader to read on, and when rhyme appears it is unobtrusive.

The 'home' that is the family is not protected from the outside world. Rather, it is a part of it. The dark world of grief is coupled in the collection with the dark world within sexual relationships and the everyday world outside it. In 'Landing', for example, a daughter is 'warm, sleepy as fruit' with 'peach satin pyjamas rumpled, scented with breath', as ...


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