Friday, 12 September 2008

Blue Hills

When I started to write the things I did were all more or less ‘lyric’ poems. It wasn’t long though before the zeitgeist or whatever found me writing longer pieces as well as writing in series. ‘Under the Weather’, a long poem written in the mid 1970s, more or less got me into a kind of writing that I’ve continued to do. It was published as a book in 1978 to almost uniformly hostile reviews (one critic who changed her mind about my later work called it ‘an easy, tiny read’). I reacted to this reception by turning to satire but though this occupied my attentions for a while it wasn’t what I really wanted to be doing. Starting late in 1980 I began writing some poems varying in length from a few lines to three pages that shared a common impulse even if they were distinct pieces. I entitled this series ‘Blue Hills’ as a kind of joke. ‘Blue Hills’ was a famous Australian radio serial about rural life (not dissimilar to Britain’s ‘The Archers’) broadcast nationally from 1949 until 1976. My ‘Blue Hills’ was indeed a ‘serial’ poem. Sections of it thread through most of my books since The Great Divide (1985) with the last section (#75) completed in 2006, not long before I left for England. I’d always liked the way that Robert Duncan had run series like ‘Structure of rime’ through his own books as a particular concern or set of concerns that would resurface from time to time and this initially influenced the way the poems were presented. ‘Blue Hills’ is too intermittent to be considered as a long poem. Its parameters are too wide. All that can be said is that it ‘happens’ in Australia (even if some of the things that happen involve looking at art and listening to music made elsewhere). The cover reproduced above is of my sole ‘homemade’ book, a portion of this series called The Home Paddock (1991). I’d arrived at the design by progressively magnifying portions of survey maps until the inky shapes lost much of their definition. The good news is that in a few months time The Complete Blue Hills is to appear with the press Puncher & Wattman in Sydney. In the meantime the curious can check out a selection of the poems that Jacket published a few issues back.


david lumsden said...

Great news about The Complete Blue Hills ... looking forward to it. The title is all but untranslatable - but you've done a good job in this post - but it's a bit like explaining the word howzat to someone who has no idea of cricket. One of the clear but non-specific memories of my childhood - non-specific in the sense that it seems an amalgam of many similar repeated moments - is sitting on the kitchen lino in the sun and hearing an episode of Blue Hills

PB said...

Hi Laurie,

Was it Under The Weather that was excised by office fire at the publisher, Wild & Woolley's building in central Sydney in the late 70s ? Was it in the late 70s ? (your memory test begins..tick tick tick - now!)


jeff hilson said...

It's a beautiful looking book Laurie. When you say 'homemade' how many copies did you do?

Laurie Duggan said...

Hello David, Pam & Jeff. Pam, I remember there was a fire at the publishers but I don't think it damaged many Under the Weathers. i ended up with a trunkload of them, many of which I've since thrown out. There were several major errors in the text - partly my own fault - so I'd want ultimately to re-do the book anyway. Jeff: I did about 100 copies of The Home Paddock and if I remember I'll bring you one soon. I had the thing printed and bound commercially (by Allbooks aka Wild & Woolley)but the design is all my doing.