Habit of Blues


109 pages
ISBN 0-920544-99-1
DDC C811'.54





Reviewed by Beryl Baigent

Beryl Baigent is a poet; her published collections include Absorbing the
Dark, Hiraeth: In Search of Celtic Origins, Triptych: Virgins, Victims,
Votives, and Mystic Animals.


Fitzgerald is not only a well-known poet but also a songwriter. In this
collection of 14 poems, most of which are titled with a single word that
suggests a shade of blueness, one can immediately feel the mournful and
nostalgic quality of “the blues” in the language and tempo of her
work. A prominent and consistent device that further emphasizes the
blues connection is Fitzgerald’s mastery of improvisation; her ability
to dislocate a cliché has an effect similar to counterpoint or descant
in jazz. One reads aloud the words on the page but simultaneously
experiences the cliché in its original form. Fitzgerald abhors
“abjectly predictable” language but wants us to “Wait for the
echo.” So she speaks of “Jungular / vanity. (Just when you least
respect it)” and of “resurrecting the dread” and of “a rebel
without applause.”

In her final blues offering, “Exulta,” she is “Still working
through language without [him].” The missing recipient of these songs
is novelist Juan Butler, who died tragically in 1981. Fitzgerald, who
suffered from a misdiagnosed thyroid disorder that lead to paranoid
schizophrenia and collapse from heart failure in 1990, believes that
Butler suffered from the same illness but died before his condition was
correctly diagnosed. According, she writes “to made a solid shape from
a nebulous / galaxy.” These poems will be most appreciated for their
alliterative, allusive, bluesy quality.


Fitzgerald, Judith., “Habit of Blues,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 26, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/6463.