U. A. Fanthorpe – ‘ATLAS’

 [  No.72 of my favourite short poems  ]


After all the recent talk of LOVE surrounding VALENTINE’s DAY, here is a very down-to-earth poem by what we could perhaps call a no-nonsense down-to earth poet,  U.A.Fanthorpe. 

Born in 1928, Ursula Askham (normally using just her initials, U.A.), Fanthorpe, died, aged 79, in 2009, near her home in Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire.  After studying at Oxford University, she went on to teach English at  Cheltenham Ladies’ College for sixteen years, before giving up teaching.  She was aged 50 before her first collection of poems was published, having noted, quite precisely, that “On 18 April 1974 I started writing poems”.  She was later made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was awarded a CBE in 2001 for services to poetry.  In 2003 she received the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.

Perhaps her best known poem is ‘Atlas’.  The poem presents a far-from-romantic view of LOVE.  Certainly a positive, worthwhile, and all the more powerful for that, view of the realities of a truly loving relationship . . . 



‘ATLAS’ . . . by U. A. Fanthorpe


There is a kind of love called maintenance
Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it;

Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget
The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;

Which answers letters; which knows the way
The money goes; which deals with dentists

And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,
And postcards to the lonely; which upholds

The permanently rickety elaborate
Structures of living, which is Atlas.

And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
Which knows what time and weather are doing
To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;
Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers
My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps
My suspect edifice upright in air,
As Atlas did the sky.


UA Fanthorpe, from ‘Safe as Houses’ (Peterloo Poets, 1995)






9 thoughts on “U. A. Fanthorpe – ‘ATLAS’

  1. I am really both amused and touched by this poem by U.A. Fanthorpe. She has a great sense of humour and of course her poetry is excellent. Showing us how the everyday glue in a relationship is an important part of love.
    ” And maintenance is the sensible side of love” she says. How true. As long as they are combined with the hand in hand walks on the beech and a cup of tea in a cosy corner……

    Love has a wide spread and enters all areas of our lives if it is true.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is poet I have never read before Roland so thank you for the introduction and sharing this excellent poem. As you say, it is the everyday and ordinary she details that gives the poem its power.


  3. Thank you for sharing this poem, Roland! It is full of creativity, wisdom, and fun! Memorable, too!
    Now there is a lady I would’ve loved to have had a chat with over tea!
    HUGS!!! 😉


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