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Review: A Ghost in my House, by Lorna Thorpe

Lorna Thorpe is a poet of the profane. An easy yolking would be with the work of Plath or Olds, but Lorna Thorpe's poems are particularly English, set in the betting shops and back rooms of urban working-class life. The poems are often very explicit about sex, and the pain of claustrophobic, domestic relationships. And that explicitness is given on the cover of this book with a striking and shocking picture of a blonde-haired woman, cigarette and champagne glass in her right hand, her left hand resting on a debris strewn table, and tears and mascara streaking her face.

Thorpe is very good on the manoeuvrings of relationships between men and women. She is quite clear about the ways in which men casually and coldly manipulate women and the ways in which women can be complicit in those manoeuvrings. Positive Thinking, for example, describes the underage narrator's visit to the bookies to place a bets for her father. Her father tells her that The key to winning is positive thinking and that

Naturally, it's my fault when he loses,
for picturing the green mini skirt I'd buy
if I had some winnings, for allowing a few bars
of 'Daydream Believer' to slip into my head.

With great adroitness, Thorpe captures the double bind; it is the girl's feminine fantasy life which comes between her father and his winnings.

It would be easy to caricature this book as depressing neo-realism. Thorpe's great skill is to capture this world with great ease and deftness, to enable the reader to know her people quickly and poignantly. And what comes through at the end, is a real sense of energy, joy and vivacity.