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This review is taken from PN Review 205, Volume 38 Number 5, May - June 2012.

And Sometime Voices ANGELA FRANCE, Lessons in Mallemaroking (Nine Arches) £5.00
DEBORAH TYLER-BENNETT, Mytton... Dyer... Sweet Billy Gibson... (Nine Arches) £5.00
JULIE LUMSDEN, True Crime (Shoestring) £5.00
GRAHAM CLIFFORD, Welcome Back to the Country (Seren) £5.00
RUTH LARBEY, Funglish (Nine Arches) £5.00
LIZ BERRYy, The patron saint of schoolgirls (tall-lighthouse) £5.00

Quiet voices in poetry should not go unheard. Angela France's Lessons in Mallemaroking begins with a declaration, unshowy but clear: 'I speak in my own voice/ through gaps left in the weave'. A persistent thread is France's attention to the solid world, where flood data is gathered 'as if knowledge were sandbags'. Her stories of others, compulsively trapped, are strongly woven. Maggie, incessant dancer, is not merely glimpsed 'in the bus shelter', but consistently observed, foxtrotting through the day centre, then home, 'in wide brown shoes, coat hem / drooping from lack of sequins'. But France's poems, untrapped, point to gaps in the weave 'for the one who left and never / looked back' ('Genealogy').

France's voice speaks particularly confidently though fairytale and myth: 'Gretel liked older women'. She has powerful myths of her own. A mysterious walker heads South: 'I see his shadow, white-rimed'. 'Sarah Talks to the Social Worker', her re-working of Abraham's aborted sacrifice of his son, moves from Sarah's complaints about 'supervised visits' to an ending whose echoes weave around a whole religion fed by 'the blood / of that poor lamb'. At its best when it seems least artful, this is poetry salted by experience, wise and watchful.

The singing speech of Deborah Tyler-Bennett's engaging 'poetry portraits' summons Mytton, an eccentric squire born in the eighteenth century, Dyer, a Cumbrian singer born in the nineteenth, and 'Sweet Billy Gibson', her great-grandfather, who lived for the first half of the twentieth. ...


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