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Bloodlines by Fred D'Aguiar


by Fred D'Aguiar

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An extraordinary poetic epic written in iambic pentameter octaves. The poem by turns weeps in pain, shudders with fear, sings with love and shouts with anger. D'Aguiar's strong verse encompasses all the elements of epic -- exile, war, love, death -- in a tale of slavery, the Civil War, and the struggle for equality and justice. The best way to illustrate his masterful range is to quote a couple of stanzas:

on war:

Death empties their heads of all they'd thought
and done up to that moment. They cannot take
their beloved memories being erased. They cry out
for death to stop playing with them and strike:
strike them down or let them live to return south
or north and surrender their guns for a rake,
saw and plough, and their arms full of a lover
again, heads emptied of hate no soil can cover.

on fear:

When darkness tears to the sound of the afraid,
when the voice peels the skin off the night
in a single blast, by mustering all the weight

of the body, the lungs must crumple
robbed of air, and burn from that brittle groan
whose deafening flare vacuums the lungs' ampoules.
Last thoughts calcify in the brain's catacomb.
The music of the blood stops stringing along, pools
and turns sour. Each pore on the skin welcomes
a long needle. The skin contracts and glistens
around the jaw. Blood fills the ear, blood listens.

on the unexpected gift of love of two old people:

She laughs, a soft chuckle, reserved for
times she believed would never arise;
warmer for him than he could ever
be for her, she guesses. But look inside
his head and she'd see the same desire
criss-crossing his mind: that he's alive
not dead, that he should pinch himself to prove
a slave's life could end in peace and love.

But the whole is far greater than the parts. Highly recommended. ( )
  janeajones | May 23, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0099284421, Paperback)

Like no poetry you've ever known before, Fred D'Aguiar's novel-in-verse sweeps you up in the scintillating story of a young female slave who falls in love with the son of the plantation owner and runs away with him in search of a new life. En route they are rescued by an old man who has organised a secret underground railroad to help slaves escape, but they become separated from each other: faith, the woman, is sold back into slavery and Christy, her lover, punished with forced labour. The novel is narrated by their son who is stuck in time until their story is told. Using the intricate rhyme-scheme of Byron's wonderfully picaresque Don Juan, D'Aguiar wittily plays with language to create poetry that is dazzling in its inventiveness whilst being utterly readable. Despite the seriousness of its subject matter, "Bloodlines" is full of humour, satire, experiment and, above all, life. Its characters are, like the language, brim-full of energy and very sympathetic as they struggle against vicissitude. Read this book fast like a novel, savour every word like a poem, do both, the choice is yours.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:20 -0400)

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