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At the heart of “Blueroads – Selected Poems” by Peter Hughes are two powerful poetic sequences which appear in their entirety. “The Metro Poems”, from 1992, consists of one poem for each station of the Rome Metro. Nigel Wheale described it as “intensely pleasurable, integral writing snatched from life in the city, foiling the world above ground with the ever-present metaphorical clatter of tunnels beneath the ruins.” This is lyric poetry which is both sensuous and intelligent. The writing is characterised by an outstandingly varied and musical sound-world. The second long sequence is “Paul Klee’s Diary” (1995). Peter Hughes takes as his starting point the diaries that the great Swiss twentieth-century painter kept until the end of the first world war. Those texts are then used to refract and filter more contemporary concerns and meditations on life, relationships, music, painting and poetry. As an abstract painter himself, Hughes brings a distinctive understanding and empathy to his subject matter. Throughout this book there are references to key figures and influences from the worlds of music, painting and poetry. These include contemporary musicians such as Barry Guy, Keith Tippet, Kenny Wheeler and Tom Waits. Then there are the poets: Pasolini, James K. Baxter, Frank O’Hara, George Oppen, Barry McSweeney, John James and Peter Riley. The rhythmic deftness and verbal inventiveness of these poems is matched by multi-layered patterns of organisation, often through constellations of imagery that flicker backwards and forwards through a text. And through it all there is a persistant celebration of the human spirit, fully at home on the Earth.
‘Peter Hughes' poetry stages the self with wit and precision at the meeting point of contradictory forces from opposed directions, like the past and the present, high art and underfoot mess, institute and instinct. The narrator absorbs or deflects these disparate demands with a virtuosic repertoire of disparate responses: serious, sardonic, musical, accusatory, grandiose, etc., bound by the shaping force of linguistic confidence. Major items control long stretches of the route: the presence of an ancient rotting city, the idea of heavenly music, the art and person of Paul Klee: halls of multi-faceted mirrors by which we see what we are to the exact syllable of foolishness and wisdom. It swallows the whole, it refuses purism. Everyone should be glad to find a truly modern poetry which raises so many meaningful smiles.’ —Peter Riley