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Blue Notes by Laurie Duggan

December 1990–January 1991, no. 127

Blue Notes by Laurie Duggan

Picador, 96 pp, $12.99 pb

Blue Notes by Laurie Duggan

December 1990–January 1991, no. 127

This collection of poetry is similarly accommodating. It is shaped by four quite different tonal movements: ‘All Blues’ (eight lyrics closely observing the ‘still life’ within season, art-work, society and self), ‘Trans-Europe Express’ (a travelogue of past times and places where conscious reflection momentarily counters the movement and cross-currents of historical process), ‘Dogs’ (where Diogenes’ cynicism is invoked to ‘lower the tone’, reminding me of the blues singer’s injunction to ‘laugh just to keep from crying’) and ‘More Blues’ (where episodic vistas of ‘blue hills’ unfold from Tailem Bend to Mount Segur). The collection ends with a nine-part retrospective called ‘The Front’ which is partly about the art of making poetry or music in the face of ‘prevailing imagery’. Here a littoral between performance and reputation is reached as today’s determined play with a language is set against inherited ‘fixed ideas’. But poetry, that stuff sometimes beached but rarely buried, rises again to have its say in a different way:

Deep and dissolving verticals of light
submerge alliteration in a shallow tub
              of salt, weed, and jetsam,
and the new mob shine
with bastard smiles and kind hearts,
so that we are thrown back on these
       baleful; decorations, unable
to show us how to cross the road, ined-
finally a confused wrack
in which we sink or swim.

Lyn Jacobs reviews 'Blue Notes' by Laurie Duggan

Blue Notes

by Laurie Duggan

Picador, 96 pp, $12.99 pb

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