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Review: You are Her, by Linda France

You Are Her begins with a contemplation of the human body, before expanding into a rich exploration of the natural world, with a particular focus on Northumberland, Linda France's home. Like Kahlo, France also suffered a serious accident, in her case a horse-riding accident in 1995, which fractured her spine and cracked her pelvis. France divides You Are Her into three parts, 'Her', 'You and 'Here', pointing up the witticism of her title. 'Her' includes several poems which draw upon the memories of her accident and its aftermath, such as The Break, Vertebra and Knitbone. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kahlo finds her way into the poetry, in work like Frida Kahlo's Corset where France finds kinship in their shared injuries.

France is another poet of memorable images, such as Her neighbour's zimmer / kicks its rubber hooves, or the opening line of the collection, When I woke up I was dead. She also enjoys playing games with form and language. YOU Don't Know What Love Is ends every line with 'you'; No Subject manages to turn the rules of grammatical sentence structure into poetry; Mrs Fooner is Spifty builds into an extended series of Spoonerisms. These clever exercises are interspersed with more cohesive mini-themes that crop up throughout her collection. Along with her accident, there is a sustained homage to Capability Brown, which takes up the whole of the book's second section. That discussion of landscape gardening also provides France with the opportunity to demonstrate her love of nature, drawing on childhood memories in Nature Lessons:

Stalking blue-jewelled slow-worms, quick ruby hips,
I'd spot the soft-boiled yellow of kingcup and celandine,
names I'd learnt from the cards in our PG Tips;

whole days decanting tadpoles or sticklebacks
into smuggled jars, mud making moons under
my fingernails, plastic sandals squelching like ducks.

France's enthusiasm for her topic shines through, her poetry bursting with flora and fauna. However, France is also able to tame that burgeoning natural world into a series of neatly trimmed poems, as she similarly controls the excesses of physical pain.