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Customer Review

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All One Breath, 16 Jun. 2014
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This review is from: All One Breath (Paperback)
Reflection; All One Breath begins with the idea of reflection and of looking at the self and the world. Whether that is the "baby-faced pariah" in "Hall of Mirrors, 1964" or the "patient look-alike" in "Self Portrait" Burnside is able to conjure the sense of memory and regret; perhaps looking out at a life of missed chances "of summers long ago" - an idea of loss which is encapsulated in the poem "My Grandmother's House" and the removal of a mirror from a wall - not just the loss of a loved one but the seeming loss of self as if the narrator themselves are lost in a place from which "nothing he could track could bring him home" and the idea of "long familiar things made strange" in "Power cut with Cheval mirror". The motif of mirrors is repeated throughout these poems as though they offer a way to see beyond that which we are; an inner eye to the soul, to memory, to love. In "The Wake" the mirrors take on a more sinister role as if the mirrors were able to trap souls or prevent passing "kept her from the afterlife" and it is tinged with the fear that we all have when looking in mirrors - that we may see something we don't want too "afraid I might catch her hurrying back". In "a rival" the idea of seeing things that you don't want to see in a mirror moves from the supernatural to the personal and the poems talks about how relationships can grow asunder and become unfulfilling. The mirror in this case acts as a voyeur, suggesting to the narrator a different life, a different love and they admit "given the choice, I'd rather her than you" again the mirror becomes a reflection for life and what it holds and what it could hold. In "A Couple" the idea of lost love and regret bubbles over into a somewhat bitter poem that states " pretend, for pity's sake, that you're alone/ as I have done for years" In "New Anatomy" the idea of reflection is given to a photograph album and the narrator looks back on his life and the what might have beens - summarising with "cherished but not what was wanted" a lamenting tone of regret. The final poem in the opening section "Spiegelkabinett, Berlin, 2012" acts as a kind of synopsis for what has come before, a conclusion drawn - as if across a lifetime of thought - that "we're always fearful of the image in the glass" as if it somehow represents everything that we are not and ultimately everything that we will be - death. "Through love and loss of love/to this finale"
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 17 Oct 2014 22:50:32 BDT
You're preaching to the converted here and I would be buying it anyway - but this is still a very thoughtful and helpful review - thank you. I wish the cretins who desecrate good poets by writing pretentious drivel on their back covers would take a lesson or two from you!

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Mar 2015 15:13:13 GMT
Last edited by the author on 2 Mar 2015 15:13:34 GMT
Lachlan Mackinnon has a nice turn of phrase in the last TLS. 'Evanescent, uncertain transcendencies are all Burnside's poetry offers.. [which] by their very nature.. run the perpetual risk of dwindling into spiritual kitsch.' Ah, dwindling into spiritual kitsch - is that why I don't get on with him?
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