There are plenty of ghosts in Lorna Thopre's first full-length collection, which is a remarkable assembly of memories, invigorated by a style as apparently raw and colourful as many of the depicted encounters, conquests and crises. A Ghost In My House is much more than a Bohemian testimony - but it gives a good airing to the highlights and pinch points of lives lived to the full. The challenge is set in the opener: Lower Bridge Street, 1973, with an intimacy, laid bare:
Mad Eddie steams into our room...
...and throws back the sheet,
squealing, 'Ah, look at the babes in the wood'.
Naked as eels, me and Richard...
As the book evolves, the reader effectively fills Mad Eddie's place, repeatedly tugged close by the warmth of the writing, sometimes wondering if they have been pulled too far. Thus, a wasp (in the eponymous poem), is willed to punish an ex-lover by leaving an excruciating sting in his tail, or thereabouts. Thorpe provides plenty of further mischief. Chase The Lady portrays ironically another loss, via the languid but deliberate consumption of a chocolate Christmas Lady:
... I thrust my tongue
into the cavity
of her body, licked clean
her caramel filling
and sucked her shell.
That earthy sensuality is not the product of an uncrafted style. A resonant voice ensures that these poems are grounded by the integrity of lithe diction and figurative invention, as in this memory of a father's betting win, in Hard Cash:
We danced like circus monkeys, grasped
at that confetti cash. We were rich,
a hundred fivers fluttering at our cheeks,
more beautiful than butterflies.'
The book is dedicated to its largest ghost: Thorpe's father. His remembered presence prompts a rich blend of pain and regret and provides a powerful thread of perspective which winds itself through the longings of more recent personae. There is a gripping portrayal of a wider growing away from family in Part 11, with its last three poems searingly real in their depiction of a parent's last days
Dancing to Motown combines the nostalgia for youth with the memory of its dangers:
I'm dancing to Motown because I want to spend
forty four minutes in my fifteen year old skin,
...where I learned to dodge the palm of his hand.
Journey follows, condensing an extraordinary quantity of memory and compassion into its description of a fraught car journey, towards a death bed. The driver's flashbacks diminish her father's weaknesses:
... I think of all the new things
he'd bring back to tents and caravans
- water melons, crabs, grapefruit juice -
envoys from another land.
Here is a book that is propelled by an authenticity matched by skill, in the hands of a writer who judges instinctively how to emblazon the inextricable link between events and emotions.