An independent small press poetry review

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We are told in the blurb that Patricia Ace is a member of Lippy Bissoms, a group of women poets who performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2006. This selection contains 20 poems, which vary in theme. GOURLAYS, describing in cheery detail the local butcher's, is a poem that exhibits Patricia Ace's frequently jaunty, unabashed approach:

	The butcher stands wide as a beach hut.
	Lips pursed like a goldfish, he whistles along
	to the radio's song, This is the way to Amarillo...

	He winks as he lays the lamb on the slab.

	A sweet, cloying smell pervades and clings.
There is a tendency to over-write, as in the last line above where 'cloying' 'pervades' and 'clings' overlap a bit too much in use and meaning, but maybe this is part of the brash wordiness of performance poetry.

WAITING FOR SNOW is a pleasing poem which describes frustration at the non-arrival of promised snow. Once again the use of lists, endemic to the simple beat and rhythm of performance verse, is somewhat irritating, but the poet's voice is bold and determined:

	The forecast was bleak.
	All week excited weather-people
	 blinked from the box
	promising hazard, disruption, chaos.

	We took stock and stocked up,
	stuffed our cupboards and freezers
	with tins and fish fingers and frozen loaves,
	checked the coal bunker, filled the car,
	stayed in by our fires, glued to the bulletins
Some poems achieve a greater incisiveness of description with a barer use of language, as BEE in its observation of the insect hobbled by an aggressive cat:
	Attempts at flight proved futile.
	All it could manage, a demented crawl,
	lifting its legs and hissing at each
	delicate prod from a dark soft paw.
Of note throughout the selection is the poet's clever use of internal rhythms and echoes (as well as straightforward end-line rhymes) through liberal, at times excessive sprinkling of assonance, alliteration and simple repetition. Another evocatively concise image comes from THE SECRET LIFE OF HAIR:
	Stirring from damp black clothes on the pulley
	catching the light, the long blonde question marks
	of our uncertain line.
FIRST BLOOD describes her daughter's first period, no doubt a time of moment and seeming significance for us all in the personal recesses of our own minds, but whether it merits a longish poem is somewhat egocentrically unsure; it is nonetheless well-done, as shown when she puts her daughter's underwear in the sink:
	The aubergine streaks
	of my daughter's first blood
	bubble up to the surface,
	a beginning.
A MONSTER is a delightful poem describing that stage in life where her fourteen-year-old daughter is in the bathroom critically appraising every part of her face and body:
	I am sent to the shops to find
	tweezers, plasters, concealer:
	things to cover up, hide behind.
	She spends hours in the bathroom
	rubbing herself out.
This is an eclectic bunch of poems, with a variety of themes and emotion, ranging from hearty observational pieces to more intense familial pieces to do with bereavements and events of significance. Some poems work, and others do not, and the style is uneven, oscillating from bull's eye clarity of images to at times a cheerful verbosity, but it certainly cannot be denied Patricia Ace has a distinctive, confident voice, has something to say and is a very fine poet. ARGUMENT, for example, detailing her regret over a burst of anger, is a good example of her style, warts and all:
	I am a woman of means, intelligent,
	confident, generally content
	with my lot, but obviously impotent
	in the face of such malevolent
	compulsions, the uncharted fathoms of resentment.
	I am an embarrassment
	to myself. Everything changes, all is transient
	but I am tainted, altered, different,
	sullied by this shameful testament.

reviewer: Alan Hardy.