Saturday, November 29, 2014

The poetry of John Burnside


Somewhere in the house, unheard, unseen, eternity comes creeping like a thief 
- from Officium, a poem by John Burnside


I do not pretend to be a poet or even understand the nuances of poetry.

But, like many, I think I can recognize superior craft. If  I knew more, had I been trained formally, I could say more.

This slim volume - about 75 pages-  of poetry by John Burnside is outstanding. It is serious reading. Here is a poet who chooses words with the greatest care - and who knows, though it's unlikely, that he was helped by a good editor - and gifts the reader with an exquisite reading experience.

The cries of hunting  birds, unhooded for the kill

What must it be like, to be a poet of such depth, finding layers of meaning and substance in every word, in every experience, in every thought?

with something more inventive, than dismay

Most of the poems do not exceed two pages, which is probably a good thing. They are muted and mature, with many obsessed with death and the past. Perhaps adding other poems of a different variety would have diluted their impact.

cloves at the back of my throat. like a cherished tumour

I was unhappy that it was only 75 pages. Of course, few buy poetry, and therefore production costs are important. I also wish the poems had been double spaced for an enhanced experience.

Required reading for he who thinks he can write poetry.

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