40

Pointed in Burnside’s direction a few months ago I was initially sceptical but am now pretty much a convert. I think the overarching quality I find is clarity. Whether I found the subject of any particular poem arresting is less the point than in its own terms it is clearly (and often beautifully) rendered. There can be a tendency to overt demonstrations of erudition…well, I suppose, what else are you going to do with all all those books you’ve read…even the initially apparently obtuse or otiose poems yield something worth capturing after a reading or two…that is to say, I tried not to let myself be put off by titles or references (and extraneous latin) and just plunged into the thing and was generally happy that I’d spent my time well. in the “Still Life…” collection, I’m amused by the repeated visions of Cosmonauts (blue or otherwise) and the meditations on childhood and time passing. It is contemplative; Black Cat Bone is more urgent, despite being only six years the predecessor of “Still Life…” it feels like the book of a younger man. That the mid-section of “Black Cat Bone” owes a huge debt to the music of the Blues is evident and admitted from the get go, it borrows the language and to some extent captures the “immediate impulse of everything” of the living in the moment reminiscent of the jazz writings of the Beats; this is a good thing. The “Faith” section of “Black Cat Bone” I struggle with more, but shall persevere…

I think he must win some sort of prize for longest titles: “with the discovery of cosmic background radiation, my brother returns from the hereafter as a Russian Cosmonaut” being a rather splendid example.

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