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Tracey Farren

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Response to LAVA LAMP POEMS, By Colleen Higgs

I agree with Finuala Dowling when she said something like, don’t be fooled by the Lava Lamp, there is nothing vague or hippie about Colleen’s poetry. The poems are cut with a bald, bare-blade honesty, a mind that makes unusual matches. Colleen fits apartheid paranoia with stubborn partying, then sums up an insane epoch in a sentence, ‘One day the pool opened to all.’ This last line of ‘my Yeoville’ is the ending of furtiveness, fear and zealous defiance. I can smell the sun cream, I can feel the water up my nose, I can hear the muted squeals of other swimmers as I duck under. There is nothing fuzzy or blunted about these poems. Don’t be fooled by the lava lamp, its true, but the experience of reading Lava Lamp felt to me like sitting on that couch, ‘watching the lava lamp in the dark’. The poems read like an intimate chat, a merging of unguarded moments where Colleen shows the vivid images she has acquired from living, really living. She speaks of the past with a deep belly laugh. She shares the wisps of longing that stroke like thin fingers. She tells of the hurts that snag on the edge of memory and still drift or shudder in her heart.
The mood moves from mildness, ‘OK, as tepid as bathwater left overnight’, to the choking courage that soaks the poem, ‘Fish,’ about the fish her father marinated before he died. These memories are not nervous flash memories, quickly banished. They are a deliberate confidence, a careful, gentle telling in an unstraight line that makes me feel privileged, sometimes deliciously shocked. Except the shock waves never hit. They are deeply absorbed into my being, buffered by the unconditional affection, the matter of factness, the loyalty of beautiful language to a strong, rebellious character. The book is an experience of heat, luminescence, and the wackiness of existence. It is the experience of being mesmerised, in confidence, no drugs involved, watching that lava lamp.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    February 7th, 2011 @14:18 #

    What Tracey said. I love Lava Lamp, but have been finding it hard to articulate why -- the telling in an "unstraight line". Thanks for such a fluent, intelligent reading.


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