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Sweet Torture of Breathing

by Lorna Thorpe

Here are poems that take a wry, feisty look at therapy, meditation, drug smuggling, acupuncture, angels, sex in hotel rooms and the platitudes of self-help books. The seemingly flippant tone of these is all underpinned by the sharp sting of the cardiac arrest she suffered.

'Don't still, my beating heart' Lorna Thorpe writes. It's a sentiment that reverberates throughout a book that deals with her close brush with death, and the psychic death that preceded it.

The central section is a series of poems about people who died before their time, among them Janis Joplin, Maria Callas, Virginia Woolf and Ethel Rosenberg. But Thorpe is still here to tell her tale and she concludes with a section that shows her feeling her way back to life in poems that celebrate the sensual pleasures and chaos of love and living.

As before, cultural references - from Cabaret and The Corpse Bride to Six Feet Under and Atonement - layer her work and extend its autobiographical reach. Plain-speaking and engaging, Thorpe's distinctive voice is carved out of the defiance and vulnerability of a survivor who isn't afraid to laugh at herself.

'Cheerfulness kept breaking in'. (Leonard Cohen, epigraph to Sweet Torture of Breathing.)

Life keeps breaking into Lorna Thorpe's poems, complete with shoplifting, therapy, gravestones, sex, and 'the cool silver of heavenly ideals' - all of it washed down with 'a bottle of cheap red'. Her words tumble, echo, shudder and celebrate. They are irresistible. Sweet Torture of Breathing is, quite simply, a roller-coaster of a book.

Alison Brackenbury

ISBN: 978-1906570-80-4 (pbk)
978-1906570-81-1 (hbk)

Dimensions: 216 x 138 mm
Pages: 90
Published November 2011

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