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Rain in Our Door: Duets with Robert Johnson (in progress)

“Caviarethe kind made from blackeyed peas, of courseto the general, these poems!”

Richard Howard

“[In these duets,] I feel a fearlessness, a nakedness, at once breathtaking and courageous. In that may lie the secret, should there be one: to discover, to pursue, that which compels us, galvanizes, obsesses.”

Herbert Morris

“[Blakely] is absolutely fearless. [Her] long, elegant lines and sumptuous images coalesce with darker themes of pop culture, history and family, both public and private, and wrestle with the questions that have concerned the very best contemporary writers since the horrific events of the 20th century’s first half: How and where, do we find solace and pleasure, and survive in a world that continues to exile its citizens?”

Anne Delana Reeves, Nashville Scene

“With the refreshing and uncanny empathy for which she is admired and respected as a critic and poet, Blakely offers a fresh attention to Johnson’s music (her poems take their titles from his extraordinary compositions), . . . allowing the various, often contradictory cries of mothers, fathers, sons, daughters—across time, race, art form, and culture—to erupt through her own.”

Lisa Russ Spaar, Arts & Academe, Chronicle of Higher Education

For years, Blakely has written what she calls ‘duets’ with Robert Johnson: her poems visiting his songs, his songs breathing in her poems. [In “Dead Shrimp Blues,” with comment by Spaar], she has Tennessee Williams and Maggie from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof cross paths with the blues singer in Clarksdale, Mississippi, so she can address him directly, circling around the imagery in one of at least two Johnson songs built around a metaphor for impotence. She writes like a window-peeper: ‘I’ll undress / Down to my humid white-girl slip.’ Spaar follows the way Blakely’s words curl around Johnson’s until it can seem as if Johnson’s are curling around hers; she rescues the phrase ‘posted out’ from the murk of Johnson’s song so you can hear it crack in Blakely’s.”

Greil Marcus, “Real Life Rock Top Ten,” The Believer

Cities of Flesh and the Dead, Elixir Press, 2008

“One does not simply read a new book by Diann Blakely: one experiences it. Blakely’s long-awaited latest collection, . . . explores travel’s promise for escape, its ability to jolt one from the cruel simplicity of the known and the inherited cruelties of the home. The collection ends with a series of sonnets for Tina Turner, that great icon of revelation, redemption, and transformation, who, through travels away from and back to the home, through reinvention and liberation, learns that the only real truth is that ‘We build ourselves, and love ain’t everything.’”

Emma Bolden, Poet’s Quarterly

“Blakely shows us that grief and danger know no boundaries . . . [and that] like Oedipus, running from tragedy may actually bring us to it. Her writing is cautionary and haunting, and, punctuated with signs of personal sorrow, reminds us all, poets or not, of her speaker’s mortality and thus ours. We all inhabit a city of flesh and the dead. Blakely’s poems are our illuminated guide.”

Heather Jane Collings, Main Street Rag

“These poems seem necessary. They have an urgency about them—as though the writing of the poem is part of the balancing act of staying alive.”

Jennifer Horne, First Draft

“‘Redemptive’ is a much abused catch-all descriptive that can be no less limiting than ‘regional.’ But the truth is, Cities of Flesh and the Dead affords close readers of Diann Blakely’s transformational poems sure keys to nothing less than personal redemption. It is a redemption that is gained by grasping that current that trembles between regions and races, gods and beliefs. And it is our best poets who guide our hands.”

Allston James, Coldfront

“Blakely’s chorus of voices sings for each speaker-self, for all women, for the postmodern condition, for everyone alive and suffering. This is world poetry, world literaturesomething rare in American contemporary culture. Blakely walks through hell with her eyes wide open, writing it, and she does not let us avert our gaze either.”

Julie Kane, Prairie Schooner

“The collection . . . juxtaposes the mortality of flesh with the brands of immortality offered by art wondering what consolation art can offer us as we busy ourselves with dying . . . Blakely provide[s] us with a clutch of beautiful and excoriating poems that force us to confront the fact of mortality even as we revel in the beauty of these well-made and crucial poems.”

Al Maginnes, Gently Read Literature

“[Blakely] is absolutely fearless. [Her] long, elegant lines and sumptuous images coalesce with darker themes of pop culture, history and family, both public and private, and wrestle with the questions that have concerned the very best contemporary writers since the horrific events of the 20th century’s first half: How, and where, do we find solace and pleasure, and survive in a world that continues to exile its citizens?”

Anne Delana Reeves, Nashville Scene

“The transference of joy and pain that defines our relationships over time, the struggle to make sense of the past and the fortitude to survive a present often haunted by it, and the desire to steal beauty from horror along the wayall of these take artful shape in Diann Blakely’s Cities of Flesh and the Dead—in poems that are adventurous, luminous, and ultimately the holders of great rewards.”

Jim Murphy, Southern Humanities Review

Farewell, My Lovelies, Story Line Press, 2000

“In some ways this is a book of marriages: the disappointment of failed or failing domestic unions, but also the worlds of high and popular culture. Blakely reveals the futility of the latter distinctions, illuminating what is most human in all art, whether high or low. . . . Deeply empathetic, beautiful, and human, this is a brilliant book by a masterful poet.”

Dan Albergotti, First Draft

“Blakely’s noir style has the urbane, anxious glamour of jazz, but there’s nothing cool about these fevered poems . . . a poet of dark and bracing powers.”

Mark Doty

“Blakely’s storytelling is complex, no-nonsense, and often full of pain. Her voice is an in-your-face voice, an almost performance-poetry voice, yet her poems are full of craft and gorgeousness.”

Denise Duhamel, Ploughshares

“Blakely is a poet who drives us into the twenty-first century with an intelligent blast without letting go of the impact and implacability of history and the human story.”


Farewell, My Lovelies is a brilliant, touching and arresting collection of poems of undeniable, authoritative power. It is dense with a multitude of dramas . . . unflinching in their candor, and shocking in their fusions of purity and horror, delicacy and crudity. Almost always they combine or intertwine several states of mind into confederations of terrible and majestic significance.”

Anthony Hecht

“These poems are side-of-the-mouth Chandleresque . . . truly lovely, musical, steeped in a farewell eloquence, making transitory but persuasive order of the chaos of the heart.”

Carol Muske-Dukes

“Blakely’s desire for love remains intact, though weathered, even savaged, by experience. It is this overriding desire of Blakely’s that pushes her collection as a whole beyond the confines of the noir genre. . . it is Blakely’s desire to sing of this [unrequited] ache, and its coexistent sweetness, that pushes her poetry beyond the confines of genre and toward a higher art.” 

Steve Harris, Samsara Review

Hurricane Walk, BOA Editions, Ltd., 1992 

“Combining a purifying sensibility with compassion for loss, Blakely extracts ‘the grace of the gesture’ from the ‘usual cravings’ of ‘messy careers.’ To see things ‘honed, quite essential,’ as Blakely desires to, is to understand them.”

Frank Allen, Arts and Humanities

“An extraordinary first book . . . an intensely personal and passionately objective collection.”

Charles Guenther, “Best of 1992,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“. . . Blakely’s gift seems not to be so much metaphor as it is the sly (almost shy) insight that pegs with telegraphic speed the layers of meaning at the emotional crux.”

Fredric Koeppel, the Commercial Appeal

“[Blakely] knows everything she knows all at once, word by word, line by line, poem by poem. These sly poems are spare and ample both. They’re cool and passionate, frank and opaque, artful and true. They’re not about what it means to be rightthough they acknowledge and even embrace this fatal ambitionbut about what it means to be us.”

William Matthews, from the Foreword

“Blakely plunges you right into the emotional heart of each poem, mincing no words as she creates an extraordinary picture of contemporary life . . . A poet to watch.”

Pat Monaghan, Booklist

“With high sensitivity, [Blakely] puts her finger on the pulse of contemporary life with its challengesmarriages, family circles, and children. The hallmark of her work lies in her ambivalence between the loftiness of the human spirit and sensuality of the body.”

Louise Douglas Morrison, Nashville Banner

“Throughout Hurricane Walk, her first collection, Blakely shows herself capable of providing art’s sly double vision, poems offering the equivalent of the word red printed in green ink . . . Hurricane Walk is rich in wit, humor, and irony, from the ingenuous opening line of ‘Planning a Family’ (‘I love and want babiesmy husband could have them’) to the subtler, supple metaphors of ‘Go in Good Health.’ Blakely prefers understatement and control, even when describing an attempted rape (‘The Attempt’) or imagining ‘Gauguin in Alaska.’ Her lines lope . . . the effect is that of a song hummed under the poet’s breath. Always stretching her poems in more than one direction, Diann Blakely reveals both ambition and skill in her first collection.”

Joyce Peseroff, Ploughshares

“Blakely is most sure-footed when she animates the inanimate or gives voice to beings other than herself, as in ‘Witch,’ ‘Gauguin in Alaska,’ and ‘The Gold Bird,’ continuing the idea introduced in ‘For My Mother’ that artifice can be superior to the messiness of life: ‘it is my song that trembles gold leaves,’ the caged bird tells us in its proud isolation.”

Nancy Schoenberger, Verse

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