May 2, 2009

U A Fanthorpe (1929 - 2009)

Elizabeth Sandie on U A Fanthorpe, who passed away on 28 April 2009.

Ask A Silly Question', number nine in the title sequence of U.A.F’ Millennium Collection Consequences, is central to her whole outlook as a Quaker with that small personal voice saying "I choose Peace". I love the way it moves from its starting point on the site of the Battle of Bosworth to encompass the imaginative knowledge of the consequences for ordinary people of the many current civil wars wars raging across the world. It skillfully collages many different texts, registers and shifts of tone within its framework. The final bit of dialogue is, as the footnotes tell us, from a Punch cartoon. It underlines the connection between parochial intolerance and full scale genocide. One of UAf''s passions was history and what can be learned from it.

I have a vivid memory of UA and Rosie reading â??Knowing about Sonnets' in a 'double act' at riverlines (York, 2004) and the urgency of those competing voices. It is a very salutary warning to anyone like myself who chooses to teach or write about poetry. There is a clear connection here of course with 'Dear Mr Lee' in its assertion of the affectiveness of poetry and that reminder of the sense of a poem as utterance, of one human being speaking to another. I hope in my book, Acts of Resistance: the Poetry of U.A. Fanthorpe, I have avoided saying 'Think this, think only this'.

I was immediately won over by UA’ wit, compassion and craftsmanship when I received a copy of her first volume, Not My Best Side, as a gift in January 1979. I was at that time a young married woman with two small children living on the outskirts of a small North Yorkshire market town where sheep and battery hens far outnumbered human contacts. I thought here was someone who understood marginal lives. This poetry spoke to me and I looked out eagerly for each subsequent volume.

I am sure her legacy will be that ability to speak out to readers of all sorts of backgrounds and circumstances.


U A Fanthorpe died on 28 April 2009. She was 79.

— Elizabeth Sandie, June 2009

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