Measured Extravagance by Peg Duthie (a review)

To celebrate national poetry month, I’m taking part in a multi-author poetry blog tour called Couplets, coordinated by Upper Rubber Boot Books. You can check out the other posts for the month Here

My first post as part of the tour is a review of Peg Duthie’s Measured Extravagance.

Measured Extravagance
Peg Duthie
Upper Rubber Boot Books

What struck me first as I read through this collection was the irreverent and often humorous treatment of weighty subjects; the speaker “shoots hoops” with Shakespeare, plays Mozart with ghosts, and pokes fun at the “Schrodinger’s Cat” philosophical quandary.

Duthie dabbles in fairy tales and myth with her poems “Stepsister” and “The Punk Piper,” and several other poems delve into the topic of religion, “Hymn” and “Shecheianu.”

But what I truly loved about the collection were the poems on “the sharpshooter”–the sestina “The Sharpshooter’s Spouse Speaks” and “The  Sharpshooter Assembles a Relish Tray.”

We’re introduced to the sharpshooter through the eyes of her spouse:

I have seen her shoot a target through the heart
and wing the zipper pull of a hated dress.
She likes things immaculate–always dries her
feet before stepping out of the shower. . .

Several things about this poem: 1) it’s a sestina, and a good one! I’m not typically a big fan of form poems–with sestinas about half way through the poem I usually feel like, as a reader, that I can see the writer trying too hard to get those end-words in–but Duthie seamlessly blends them in. 2) I love this character– a woman both strong and feminine.

In the second poem on the sharpshooter we see more of how her vocation shapes her homelife:

Some afternoons, everything she touches
reminds her of how bodies are so soft,
even as she delicately wields
chopsticks, toothpicks, tongs and teaspoons
to place the artichoke hearts just so
among the starflowers carved from radishes.

Again, we are given an outside perspective on this woman; a paradox, simultaneously delicate and deadly.

My one criticism of this collection would be that I wished to read more about a specific avenue her poems took you down–the many themes of myth, art, this character, could be more fully explored in a longer collection.

Overall, I hope to read more of Duthie’s work and to see her write more on these interesting topics and characters created in this collection.


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