Title:Dancing to Motown
Written by: Lorna Thorpe
Published by: Pighog Press
Reviewed by: Fionna Doney Simmonds
Lorna Thorpe’s collection is a journey that begins with a suspended jar containing a partially burnt photograph and finishes with the final page showing the same jar, but filled with life-giving water and air bubbles, the photo of a man and girl unscathed. These are powerful visual images in a book with a strong message of womanhood today and of the healing journey of life.
Concentrating on relationships, on the juggling of emotions that life throws our way, Dancing to Motown is sometimes funny, sometimes nostalgic, but always sharp. Thorpe’s confidence with her languages ensures her words are perfectly used. This is especially so when she is capturing what it is like to be a girl trying to negotiate men and relationships:
... the forest
of straps and zips where tongues twine
and this week’s squirming thing jumps like a puppy
in my hand.
- Top Rank Suite, 1971
Thorpe’s poetry explores the first kiss, the first exposure to a world with no rules, the first lover, the first morning after, the second, and third, and so on, granting a woman emotional life beyond career and family. Her observations are witty and occasionally bittersweet:
I might as well be a stick of furniture: the table
where he pitches loose change, unopened mail,
the odds and sods of life. Or the couch,
plump temptress soaking up his ash,
moulding her feather cushions to his arse.
Nothing is untouched by her sharp eye. Small insignificant moments like your partner sitting on a sofa take on an unforeseen importance, are given a twist and add another rich layer to the intricacies of life. Thorpe sees adventure in such dreaded circumstances as the dating scene, which then becomes an opportunity to create new identities, to play at schoolyard games once again:
...this telling of my life
never fails to enchant; a new me taking shape
- Would like to meet
Possessing the ability to create clearly defined voices and emotions through her language, Thorpe exchanges innocent reminisces of love with shocking portrayals of abuse such as the painful ‘Mother Love:’ ‘…she smacks/him so hard he is airborne. Shrieking/you can’t have the fucking crayons, …’. In ‘Dancing to Motown,’ the title poem, she describes placing a bet for her seriously ill father ending a sensitive portrait with:
I’m dancing to Motown because I want to spend
forty four minutes in my fifteen year old skin
resurrecting that infinite, explosive world
where I learned to dodge the palm of his hand.
Poignant reminisces of lost loved ones in ‘Waterloo Street, August 1999’ and ‘ The fuck-ups club,’ complete Thorpe’s journey of life and love, reconciling those of us that may feel alone with the knowledge of a greater community. This is the beauty of her collection. She touches us with her poetry and consoles us with wry acknowledgement and delicacy.
While she is not overly adventurous when it comes to poetic form, Thorpe brings us new ways of looking at our lives. She brings innocence and wonder back to life, exposes us to the harsher brutal side of life, and occasionally wallows melancholically in the endless obstacles to true fulfilment that seems to dog us. Publishers’ pighog have published a lovely collection and brought our attention to a talented poet.
Lorna Thorpe’s poetry has created the template for a yearbook of womanhood. She is earthy, funny and honest, and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future. Dancing to Motown is a book that every woman will appreciate, and men will feel they have stumbled on secret women’s business if they happen upon it.
BIO: Fionna Doney Simmonds is Moondance.org's Poetry Editor. A freelance writer, she has published reviews with Moondance.org, parametermagazine.org.uk, 'Reader's Review'(UK) and 'Avocado'.