Wednesday 1 August 2007

The Good Neighbour by John Burnside

This is a wonderful poetry collection! The Good Neighbour explores relationships between humans and between us and nature, with great insight and a wonderful understanding of the workings of language. The poems are populated by shapeshifting creatures, angels and unidentified beings with:

two spurs of cartilage above

the shoulder blades; not wings,
or not quite wings,
but something like a memory of flight

locked in a chamber of bone

(from Annunciation with Zero Point Field)

and are we all like that if only we would recognise it? Life as a whole here is pervaded by:

that locked sense of robin's egg blue
at the back of a life
that never quite lost its place
in the given script
but wanted, more than anything, to rise
and go out in the dark, to where the owls
were shifting aside, unlocked from the visible world,
and the rain in the trees
was a room at the end of the mind
where what we love goes on, uninterrupted.

(from By Herodsfoot)

This extract speaks to me incredibly powerfully, though I can't articulate why. That is part of the appeal in most of these poems, they capture some aspect of life that you instinctively feel is undefinable, as I read the words I'm thinking 'that is so real' but still wouldn't be able to say what it is.

This is a collection I will read over and over, the poetry is so beautiful and insightful. In fact John Burnside os one of my favourite poets currently writing in Scotland, though in some other of his collections his work imbues nature with too much darkness and the novel of his I read was too disturbing for me to be able to finish! If you only read one book by John Burnside make it The Good Neighbour.


Everydaythings said...

"two spurs of cartilage above

the shoulder blades; not wings,
or not quite wings,
but something like a memory of flight

locked in a chamber of bone"
WOW - leaves me speechless.Thanks for the recommendation - will have to try and find this. Its a book right?

Crafty Green Poet said...

I know - wonderful isn't it? Yes its a book. Hope you find it and enjoy it as much as I did.

Rob Kistner said...

Thank you for turning me on... to John Burnside... ;)

I was not familiar with his work.

Clare said...

I am definitely going to buy The Good Neighbor! I adore this kind of writing and will immerse my soul in it. Thank you for such a wonderful book review and recommendation!

Catherine said...

Those poems both sound beautiful. Maybe I can find and buy that book while I'm in Scotland. If we have any money left over after food and accommodation :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Crafty,

Thanks for sharing some of your favorites. I always like seeing what appeals to other poets.



Rethabile said...

Thanks, CGP. The extracts speak to anyone listening, I should think. It's all so short and brisk, and true...

Constance Brewer said...

Wow, great images! Thanks for sharing.

BeLoved.... said...

another great piece for poetry thursday. i'm aa huge fan of yours!

Deb said...

I'm inspired to find his work; hopefully it's available in the US.

"that locked sense of robin's egg blue" captured me.

Anonymous said...

a wonderful collection; that top one is amazing. you could really get an image of what is being said.

Tumblewords: said...

I didn't know John Burnside, but am looking forward to reading The Good Neighbor. The words, as you say, are deep and vivid and full of questions - some with answers. Nice post.

Joyce Ellen Davis said...

Great review. Thanks! (Yes, this is wonderful stuff.)

Anonymous said...

I'm intrigued by your review, especially as you describe how effectively so many of these poems touch on those "indescribables" of life.

Most times, I feel I don't read nearly enough poetry. Thanks for this!

sage said...

nice images (the room at the end of the mind!), thanks for sharing a piece of poetry that moved you.

Anonymous said...

Good to see the John Burnside word spreading. I envy those commenters coming across him for the first time. With several collections available, they have a treat before them.

sister AE said...

I've heard that "not quite wings" part before and I, too, love it, though I don't think I've ever wondered WHY I love it.

Camille Alexa said...

I came over from West of Mars blog to check out your review. I'm so glad to see poetry in the mix.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Hey, crafty green poet! I'm sorry I didn't drop by sooner to thank you for your entry; it came just as I was catching up from a five-day absence.

At any rate, it's my pleasure to tell you that you've won a prize in the Summer's Hidden Treasures contest! If you'd be so kind as to e-mail me at susan at west of mars dot com (no spaces and all that jazz), I'll get things in motion for you.

Thanks again for playing, and I hope you'll join us this winter for Debut a Debut!