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A Turn in the Road

A Turn in the Road by Sarah Strange is a brilliant illustration of the former. The 63 poems chronicle the death of her husband, her gradual acceptance of the loss and the eventual triumph of finding love again. It is an authentic and beautiful portrait of a human being. The diary-like format aids exceptionally well the poetess' description of her husband's brave but silent fight with terminal illness and the pretend-objectivity that the format dictates, the interspersed images of the daily routines of a contented married life convey all the stronger her own anxiety and suffering. It is striking how the poems are redolent of honesty; the unashamed focus on herself, the depression and loneliness, her finances and jobs, the femininity. Indeed, perhaps the most endearing quality of her verse is their touching femininity; the thoughts of clothes and shopping, the unremitting female insecurity about looks and the conviction that her pain and emptiness will end once a loving mate is found. Sarah Strange has been writing poems since the age of seven and with her literature-tuned husband they regularly exchanged poems of love. It shows. Her use of language is rich but also wonderfully accessible and while she expertly varies her rhyme schemes they remain enticingly musical. The colourful but easy complexity of her imaginative connotations is something to behold. Writing, for example, about their last holiday in Barbados, her reference to "the Trades that many a sail have trimmed" evokes not just the slave trade and the southern hemisphere trade winds but also the joy of sailing off the Caribbean coast. Her aphorisms - even the culture-based ones such as "Carpe Diem" or "it's now not then," a clever twist to the eternal question of the Hebrew sage of antiquity "if not now, when" - draw instant understanding. They also testify to her English roots. Who wouldn't immediately know what lies behind "Easter Blues." Sarah Strange's quintessential Englishness is all there; in her proverbs and nursery rhymes, and although the speaking is direct, there is a reticence and an almost stiff upper lip kind of dignity. One must read knowingly to see behind the words the intensity of feelings and even their hidden sexuality. The discreet report on the last months with her husband, "I slept no longer in your arms," is unmistakably a sobbing sigh of need. Similarly, although the description of the re-start of her life is delicately embedded in an analogy of a floating boat (her body), "I cried until my body shook with tears... a tsunami swamped my mind; I could not speak," invites a sweetly erotic image of an explosive enjoining with her new man. But above all, the outstanding quality of Sarah Strange's poems is their universality. The human spirit and emotions that shine through them bring immediate recognition, association and empathy. It is an unmissable read for all lovers of verse.
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About the Author

Born in Buckinghamshire in 1949, Sarah Strange has a deep appreciation of nature as she grew up surrounded by local woods and beautiful countryside. Fond of writing from an early age, she was runner-up in a nationwide schools poetry competition in 1960. After qualifying in modern languages from the University of Kent in Canterbury in 1972, she moved to Brussels when Great Britain joined what is now the European Union. Over the years Brussels has grown on her and she now considers it her home. She became a member of the SABAM, the Belgian association of authors, composers and publishers, as a songwriter in 1979. After many years in the corporate world, she opted for a completely different lifestyle, qualifying as a tourist guide for Belgium from CERIA, in 2004. When not doing translations for various cultural organisations, she enjoys showing visitors round her adopted country. A daily poem is published on her blog This is her first time in print.

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