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Penned in the Margins
53 Arcadia Court
45 Old Castle Street
E1 7NY
ISBN 0 9553846 0 5

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Susie Gordon's first poetry collection, PECKHAM BLUE, is based on a journey from her home on the Lancashire coast to South London to rediscover the family who gave her up for adoption. The ten poems work as a thread of exploration for both the big and unanswerable questions of life as well as the familiar and everyday experience. These are poems that are in turn funny and serious, revealing a writer who though relatively new to her craft gives a poignant take on the theme of identity.

The personal is conspicuous in a number of these poems, with certain of them PECKHAM BLUE, WEDDING DAY, ELVIS OF POMEROY STREET, A CIGARETTE WITH MY FATHER pinpointing the figure of the absent father. The title poem PECKHAM BLUE points to Gordon's capacity as observer:

	Walking out from the station,
	the same way that my father walked,
	coming up from the platform,
	I saw Peckham blue for the first time, below a chalk sky.
Gordon is less introspective in the poem PHOTOGRAPHS as she gathers scraps and pieces of information about her parents from family photographs kept in two hat boxes by her aunt:
	I picked out the older ones in faded packets,
	the ones with rounded corners, grainy brown,
	and everyone with mullets, jackets with big collars,
	lurex for nights on the town, and she was there
	with bluish eyes and red hair;
Gordon's poems about her absent parents are not confined to personal tales and events. BIRTHPLACE presents a historical view of the living conditions her parents would have seen in the 80s:
	Tawdry, tragic town
	scored with tramlines, jilted
	when the lights go down;
	sad old Havisham.
Many of the poems dealing with personal relationships are touched, inevitably, with the spectre of time. ELVIS OF POMEROY STREET reminisces about who and what her father was:
	Elvis of Pomeroy Street,
	cocky hip swinger, hands-in-pockets saunter
	around your patch,
	sly word and suitcase always packed
	for when the shit hits.
Other poems record with gentle, wry humour the domesticity of personal relationships. ON RAYMOND'S BIKE traces her aunt's memories of the time she spent riding Raymond's motorbike around the streets. Gordon connects this with the "twists of DNA" shared in common that make her part of these memories:
	All of us, as halves
	of selves, twists of DNA, must have been
	five times each around the world, so I 
	as demi-curl of chromosomes  have buzzed
	over Blackheath Common on Raymond's bike
Elsewhere, as in EYES, "sister, sister, niece" sit in quiet contemplation of the past under Gordon's scrutiny of unsentimental appraisal. ON PECKHAM RYE reveals the real and imaginary characters that people Gordon's poems with a sensibility involving not a little compassion. Tended with humility too or maybe it's just the wariness of someone for whom self-deception is a no-go zone. As she says in the poem,
	I want to walk beside him here,
	arm in arm or feet apart,
	two reflections making clear
	that he is with me, I with him.
Gordon's response to her journey encapsulated in the final poem URBS AND SUBURBS is to write of the issue that has concentrated her mind with a clear-eyed appraisal of the aesthetics of the situation
	sink towns on the
	brink of
	towns where the rooves are
	grey crowns
	staggered camelots
With Gordon, there's the desire to discover her past, the background stuff she can't discard, the simple normative experiences of someone who thinks with her heart. An honest and insightful attempt to trace the past is what I take from PECKHAM BLUE.

reviewer: Patricia Prime.