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Houses Without Walls by Susan Utting reviewed in Seam 26 by Frank Dullaghan

Seam 26
Review by Frank Dullaghan

Susan Utting: Houses Without Walls

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.