It is this overriding desire of Blakelys that pushes her collection as a whole beyond the confines of the Noir genre. In the poem Duplex Noir, Blakely brings the classical noir elements of despair and entrapment into play: At dusk, stars fizzle in this landlocked sky and tv screens turn blue, like smoke rising from my neighbors grill, smoke perfumed with meat and already-spilled booze (theyve brought enough): And its the neighbors activity that compounds Blakelys isolation, driving home the point that her lover hasnt called. Bitterness and the desire for revenge is played out for the speaker in a movie, the word meat repeated throughout the poem as both judgment and pronouncement: You havent called; my set darkens with Florida night sky, Hurt and Turner sweating over tonics slopped with rum, the tang of cut limes rising as they plot to kill her husband. In the poem, Independence Day the speaker is now at the neighbors' party; the whiff of smoke, even closer now; the sky is just as pressing in a suburban setting where adultery lies just beneath the surface, along with the fragility of identity: Charcoal fumes and smolders while my friend piles our plates with barbecue, his sauce a family recipe praised to the skies. This groups kids soon clamor for ice cream, which we skip to linger over beers in the hot twilight circled by mosquitoes; when a hand moves one from my neck, I mistake the gesture for my husbands, two chairs away,clasp that hand till someone cracks a joke and I blush, look away so fast Im dizzied, Like Francesca in Dantes Inferno, the speaker finds her existence disintegrating before great gusts of emotion; the desire for escape desperate - even pathetic: Heat and bugs and voices whirl me from my own place in this humid circle, a whirl ridden to distant yards, distant blocks - no, ridden further, till the landscape changes and names scatter and dim. For the speaker, the world is now a grotesque place, leering back in the simplest, most innocent details: five holiday shots, and the flowers on my rooms walls bloomed monstrously, their twisted stems coiling like snakes before my eyes closed to sweaty, broken nightmares: my grandmothers face metamorphosed six times a second from flesh to skull then back again. For all the tough talk, she is a poet who has not abandoned hope -- she remains convinced there is an exit door in the labyrinth called Love; and with Love there can be found a center to Blakelys universe, something other than Noirs black despair. In the collections final poem, Chorale, the speaker comforts a friend after her suicide attempt. The speaker contrasts this surrender (with musical backdrop by Schiller) to her own experiences with love (with Beethoven accompaniment): The last time I fell in love I played Beethoven so loud that pictures trembled and china rattled its shelves, Chorales strings and winds and horns confirming that joy - freude, freude -- is what we all desire, that while deep-kindled by the scent of hair, or the brief feathery touch of a hand, or the sight of a parted mouth, desire arrows its way into the brain till flesh and mind become as one, singing our unrequitable ache to drown in sweetness.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ By Allston James (Monterey, CA Uniited States) There's an extraordinary quality to Diann Blakely's poetry that will not escape even the most jaded eye. The South, rock and roll, love in all its guises--take a look at our world through the eyes of a master poet. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Just as Diann Blakely's title pays homage to the classic crime noir writing of Raymond Chandler, the poems themselves evoke the bright, brassy lights, thick weather, and dark alleys that honeycomb human relationships--particularly those of love and lust. "FAREWELL MY LOVELIES, is a brilliant, touching and arresting collection of poems of undeniable, authoritative power.
Here is the review I wrote for Farewell, My Lovelies for First Draft in the fall of 2000. Dan Albergotti Review of Farewell, My Lovelies by Diann Blakely --from the fall 2000 issue of First Draft (Alabama Writers' Forum) There must be very few poets who would consider writing a poem that compares the relationship of T.S. Eliot and his first wife, Vivien, with that of punk rock icons Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungeon. Blakely is in complete control of form here, executing difficult villanelles and sestinas with grace and building careful free verse lines into short poems of grand impact.