Friday 9 September 2022

Pam Thompson, "Strange Fashion"

Pam Thompson is a writer and lecturer based in Leicester. Her publications include The Japan Quiz (Redbeck Press, 2009) and Show Date and Time (Smith | Doorstop, 2006). Pam has a PhD in Creative Writing and her second collection, Strange Fashion, was published by Pindrop Press in 2017. Pam is a 2019 Hawthornden Fellow. She is on Twitter @fierydes

About Strange Fashion

Pam Thompson’s second collection bursts with strangers and with intimates, with colour and with cool dispassion; these poems travel the world and through history from the Belfast Troubles to slave smuggling in Illinois, from out-of-season Alicante to a croft in the Scottish Highlands, to parachuting from the St. Louis Gateway Arch. They take us into the worlds of artists via the imagined lives of assistant to Louis Daguerre or Georgia O’Keeffe, and sail confidently out into the fantastical: witness Emily Brontë and Emily Dickinson hunting for antiques in Church Stretton or the journalist trying to winkle tidbits from Virginia Woolf in an elevator.

You can read more about Strange Fashion on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read two sample poems from the collection. 

From Strange Fashion, by Pam Thompson


(i.m Mildred Thompson 1919-2015)

That night, I was too young
To understand why she cried
on hearing Kennedy had been shot.
She brought the smell 
of methylated spirits in with the cold.

I outgrew my Raleigh bike.
She bumped it along the path
next to the railway line,
her dress, starched cuffs and collar,
stashed in the wicker basket on the front.

Coal trucks rattled past to Keresley.
She’d walked when the past was icy,
Slipped on a stile, cracked two ribs,
Wouldn’t stay put on the settee, was up
to cook our tea, make beds.

At ninety-three she understood
if the traffic held them up. I used to be
a State Registered Nurse, she’d inform
the girls who found her combs,
changed her sheets, wrote up
their notes leaning against 
the fridge. The social worker spoke
as if she couldn’t understand English.
My God – that tone – I used to be

That January evening in the care home,
they brought us cups of tea.
She was making her way back,
and if the paths and corridors were slippery
it didn’t matter. There was nothing
to climb over, no shift to report for.

The Shipyard Apprentice

(i.m. George Thompson 1914-82)
             Fourteen. Your first day.
The old ones spoke about the Titanic;
the space it took, how it reared above 
terraced houses. When you dared a smoke 
in the dry dock, you could almost hear 
women laughing, a crack of glass 
against steel, glimpse taffeta, crèpe de Chine.

              Youse’ll be safe here 
when we kick those bastards out.

Taigs. New name in your mouth.
Theirs, the worst job—
painting hulls with ‘monkey-dung.’
It floated like dirty snowflakes.
You could taste it, feel it lining your lungs.

             Dusk. Swaying on a tram 
to the shut-down shop on Sandyrow 
where shoes lay on racks, heels still unmended. 
She’d seemed well when you left.
The invasion of neighbours. This, then the war; 
no-one to straighten your lapels for either.

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