Dystopia 38.10 comprises a balanced innovative collection of ground-breaking poetry. It is a poetic dystopia divided into four zones, city life, private life, the life of things, and inner life all blended together. The poetic voice like all good art provokes defamiliarization or ostranenie with a multitude of poetic devices, such as alliteration, repetition, half-rhymes, and enjambments. Also it has something of the confessional poetic strand that Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath propagated. It awakens us from a comatose and complacent state and thrusts us out of the cement of our comfort zone, right from first line.
Matt Duggan, the author of this engaging collection, is a poetry activist who swerves our emotions, twists and tangles our feelings, making us see anew. With his antithetical language, his satire, his thudding rhythm, his novel use of words we are helplessly under his spell. Dystopia 38.10 is also imbued with poignant humanity and love for everything human. Despite the dystopian connotations, we feel that its poems take us through urban and suburban landscapes with a voice that both consoles and inspires change.
The first poem of the book, “The City Statue”, sets the pace. We immediately visualize a city that is moving yet static. Unloving and cold, inhabited by walking dead, the homeless, disillusioned and drunk. With ladies whose eyes are in death´s royal plum. The tanned faces with innumerable credit are rich but dead.
His very imagist poem “The sun bathing fox” consistent of only two quatrains, immerses us in a drowsy day where we can see a fox embalmed in orange. By means of a “bedroom” metaphor, present for example in L6 rolling in the daisy covers, we can feel the comfort of being at home protected under an Ikea duvet, on a lazy summer afternoon. It brings recollections of two other fox poems, Ted Hughes and Simon Armitages´. Both are about a fox, which personify violence and even inspiration and are set at night. Matt poem renovates on this theme, it is set in the afternoon, under a luminous light and it´s the blood thirsty bugles that bring violence not the fox itself. Sun pools of grass gestures to a Whitmanesque optimism. A soothing soundtrack that alienates us from the faraway chase and its death tones that threaten to end it all.
“Obsolete” and “Ice Cream Utopiansim” reveal a poetic stance with a tragic sense of humour. “Ice cream Utopiansim” resembles with its repetitions a nursery rhyme, which shouts truths at us under its “sweet” simplicity. It invites us to see again with words that echo sight: look around, reflections, opening our eyes, visage, reflected.
There are so many poems that sting and yet simultaneously are vitalizing and compelling that it is difficult to single out a favourite. I feel Matt Duggan stimulates a desire for more poetry on our reading shelves. He makes us aware of poetry´s power with his modern, deconstructive style and provocative art. In other words, and following from one of his titles, he´s rebooted poetry today!
His gift makes us more receptive to explore modern life and its controversies, to explore our inconsistencies and what´s more, aspires to make us better humans.
Matt Duggan is a Bristol born imagist poet, who won the prestigious erbacce prize for poetry from well over 5,000 entries worldwide. Matt has had his poems published in over sixty journals and magazines, and is involved in many other artistic projects.