Peterloo Poets

Poetry Publishers 1972 - 2009

Safe as Houses
Poems by U. A. Fanthorpe

Safe as HousesSafe As Houses, a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, was U.A. Fanthorpe's 6th individual volume. The "safe" houses in this volume include both real and fictional houses, for example houses damaged in the Blitz, Ibsen's A Doll's House, and Tyndale's prison cell. Houses become a metaphor for the world, and U.A. Fanthorpe writes of all the loving, cruel, and stupid things we do in it.

As in her previous collections, U.A. Fanthorpe writes poems that are moving, disturbing, and funny. The volume includes Christmas poems, poems concerned with painting, craft, and magic, and poems that are revisions of the classics, notably one adding an extra scene to Macbeth.Beginnings and endings also feature strongly.

U.A. Fanthorpe is one of England's best, most popular, and prolific poets who is renowned for her entertaining and moving readings. She was the first woman ever to be nominated for the post of Oxford Professor of Poetry. All her individual volumes have been published by Peterloo and her Selected Poems- chosen from her first three now out of print volumes - was published by Penguin in 1986. A range of her work is now available on audio cassette: Awkward Subject (Peterloo Poets, 1995) and - with R.V. Bailey - Double Act (Penguin, 1997).

'U.A. Fanthorpe is a national treasure. A new book from her is always a unique pleasure to be savoured for its truth, disconcerting obliqueness and even more disconcerting directness.'
Liz Lochhead, Poetry Book Society Bulletin



The ancestors. The shadow people,
Who now and then lean softly from the dark
And stroke on chin or thumb the new generation.

Mothers fear them, and their gifts,
Guessing half what they fear. Who knows what you'll find
If you look. Wreckers. And swindlers.

Daredevil grans and presumptuous children
Ransack the archives. No treasure
But outlandish Christian names: Ephraim, Mercy.

And tanned gigantic offspring from far-off
Hoping, in holiday mood, for the Old Country,
For village blacksmiths, village greens and thatch,
Sadden to find in faded sepia
The unpretending minutes of bleak lives.

Even the noble, under his courtier's tiptoe,
Admits some fearful Berserk or Spreadeagler
As line-founder, and waits, tight-lipped,
For the claw to poke out from the lordly cradle.


Cover illustration: Graham Sutherland, 'Swansea Chancery Chambers (Solicitors' Offices Swansea, Devastation)'. By Permission of National Museum and Gallery, Cardiff.
Publication: NOVEMBER 1995 (70 pages laminated paperback).
ISBN 10: 1871471591, ISBN 13: 9781871471595.