Cannon’s Mouth Poetry Magazine reviews Houses Without Walls

Cannon’s Mouth Poetry Magazine
Review by Don Barnard

Houses Without Walls
by Susan Utting

This, Susan Utting’s third full collection, has nothing to prove and pretends nothing. It is honest, sometimes raw and always strangely comforting.

Susan Utting explores the fabric of life, its colours, its patterns that repeat too often and its loosened threads, with a lyrical voice, an assured technique that leave you noticing only the sensuality and the pain. Even, or perhaps especially, in moments of happiness, there is a shiver of something colder, a shifting of the ground that brings unease:
while we/ clung for warmth, for dear life, to each other/ watching the snow that sometimes falls in April.

She has a story-teller’s skill that leads you into a poem before you realise, beginning sometimes half-way through a thought, like a friend taking it for granted that you will pick up the thread of her confidences. She celebrates the ending of an affair, translating it into a visit to the hairdressers: Forget Delilah: remember all the lovers you will leave,/forget the few who will leave you…
and later
walk away relieved, of something; light-headed’s/ not the word for it, exactly, simply there’s a lightness/ in our tread…

There are no grand statements here, no posturing, only the small truths and tragedies, the details of individual lives. Yet, this is not a house-bound book. Its travellers move between small seaside towns and Hawaii or Hong Kong while never escaping their own vulnerable skins:

Breaking Even

I bruise easily,
heal fast – it’s a family thing,
this taut, thickening skin.

Here, love is often accompanied by loss, actual or anticipated, but the determination to persist uplifts, the tenderness with which the past is explored is moving. Life in this book teaches that there are no certainties, that nothing lasts, but Susan Utting embraces this. The poem that ends the book, Grace, itself ends ‘let us praise doubt’.

This will be one of the last books I ever part with.