A Third Colour.  Alan Dunnett .2018. Culture Matters

Alan Dunnett's collection 'A Third Colour' is lyrical, political, and thought-provoking. A intriguing mixture of fresh and contemporary imagery and themes, and the historical and mythical, with a well-written nod to how themes and symbolism can cross generations and time, can be universal and how the more society may change it also stays the same.

There is a clever and appealing mixture of soft lyricism and metaphor to talk about and explore challenging, often harsh or more hard-edged topics. This does not detract from the impact of the topic and in fact can reveal these to the reader in a fresh way. There is plenty of symbolism but also the use of current and more straight-forward language, marking Dunnett very much as a contemporary poet. This is his strength, I believe, this two-edged approach to poetry, this mixture of the traditional and the new.

Social commentary via poetry is not new, and so it can be a challenge to use this to say something that is still relevant and current. Dunnett achieves this, while also taking the reader on a tour of his thoughts and feelings on not only society but history, myth, religion and relationships. From Cain and Abel to David and Goliath, Macbeth to fairy tales, back to civil war, Brexit, refugees and funerals. We move from ancient history to modern day Peckham, Dunnett obviously feels very strongly about the state of today's society and the people living in it, and all the poems in the collection are presented to make the reader feel strongly as well. The reader is presented with life, war, love and death, and are challenged to consider and react. There is no escape.

“And this proves there was living water
millions of moons ago and if the water
was living, who was it who knelt there
to drink from it?”

This example comes from 'Promise of Eternity' a delightful and playful piece on the various meanings of eternity, combining romantic sentiment with cosmology and nature – things that appear to last an eternity to humanity.

Here, in  the title poem, 'A Third Colour', we see connotations of epic poetry and narrative, the hero or warriors journey, tempered with the personal and introspective, making the reader think differently while also emphasising the point Dunnett seems to want to make about the tragedy and confusion of war and struggle. Here we have rich visuals – colours and action – mixed with sweeping statements and mythology, and it is in these contracts and conflicts – much in the way his characters or narrators experience society and daily life – that the heart of Dunnett's poetry can be found.

“I ran through the blue streets thinking the end
is also the beginning but if peace
would come in this way whether it would last.
I knew of a third colour and planned
to find it though it took a year. By ice,
by fire, let the next stone be cast.”


Laura Fernandez-kayne