Graham’s Blue Notes offers an intimate stroll for readers

October 9, 2015

One of the pleasures of life is to read a good book, to be entranced by it and to communicate to others why they would enjoy it, too.

I have SO enjoyed reading and reviewing books over the years. You read it, do a tug of war with it and then — eureka — you know exactly what you want to say about it.  Problem solved and your words flow as you try to persuade others to experience the joy and even ecstasy that you have just had.

This is one of my book reviews; in this case, a short book called a chapbook:

Gulf Islands Driftwood

November 30, 2005

Graham’s Blue Notes offers an intimate stroll for readers

by Tanya Lester

Blue Notes by Shirley Graham, Salt Spring Island: mother Tongue Press, 2005, 20 pp., $20 paper.

Opening a mother Tongue Press chapbook is like unwrapping a special gift.

Folding back the elegant linocut cover created by co-publisher Peter Haase reveals a sheet of handmade paper.

It contains seaweed, arbutus and wasp nest bits gathered on Salt Spring by co-published Mona Fertig.

The first of three recently published chapbooks I opened was Shirley Graham’s Blue Notes.

While the title suggests that this poetry could be musically inspired, it was visual art that revealed itself to my imagination while I read the first poems.

It was as if my eye was behind a camera lens as I zoomed in on descriptive images Graham had conjured up.

In The Blue Lady, for instance, “(I)nstead of crying tears, her whole face washes over with a cloudy blue, every feature blurring.”

By the time I got to the Pronoun Blues section, I felt like I was strolling through my imagination’s intimate three-room gallery.

Now it seemed the Buddhist concepts of illusion and impermanence were clearly revealing themselves in You Plural:

“…Begin talking to each other. Let me watch you until I’m nothing but pupils and cornea. Act naturally, and above all, don’t look as me.”

What I will call “the final room” in Graham’s poetry is more formal stylistically and the offerings are inspired by by revered artists such as Matisse:

“… and it’s only the


who rise off the floor,

feet as high as the vase,

hands linked like vines


In the end, Graham reminds me that poetry, like visual art, can draw us mysteriously into a meditative state. Experience it deeply, yes. Understand it completely, never.


Tanya Lester’s books are Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader (can be purchased from the artist or at, Friends I Never Knew, Dreams & Tricksters and Women Rights/Writes. All are available in some libraries and the last three are in the Legislative Library of Manitoba.

Tanya’s early posts in this blog are at

Tanya is a tea leaf reader, reiki master and housesitter with a strong love for animals as well as a mother to an adult son.

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