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4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars

I must say I struggle with Burnside - am I reading all the wrong volumes (The Hoop, Swimming in the Flood)? - but hey, whadda I know? Here Burnside seems to inhabit a world that's all but vanished - 'a paper boy, the milkman on his rounds', 'stepping outside in the dark...to fetch the coal'; his neighbour's landlord's a spiv, indeed 'a lickspittle spiv/in a flat tweed cap'* (we are talking 2005!) He worries away at the word soul, a contentless concept without a dogma to support it, a tenuous *substitute* for emotion or idea**, of which the 'poetic' should always be a byproduct. One almost finds oneself wishing for 'Meditation in a Traffic Jam' or 'On Stubbing my Toe'. And what on earth is Cy Twombly doing dans cette galère - that same, exceedingly twombly Cy whose daubs, to Roland Barthes, 'bore the erotic redolence of some crumpled pair of pants discarded by a rent-boy', according to Julian Bell in the Guardian. Ahimè, time was when it was Rothko who was the signifier of cool and repository of the ineffable! Fellow Scot Iain Bamforth on Joseph Beuys (A Place in the World, 2005), now that's the real deal; but he is (a) married to a German and (b) an MD; no Mystic Meg he - though when he essays that mode (By Further Knowing) he's pretty stunning ('each gravid cyst unloads its brusque apostles')

But that's just the personal half ('Here'); though the pious pomposity of Baudrillard doesn't augur well, the turismo half ('There') is both more concrete and more thought-freighted - because it is 'grounded' it can take off - and the collection thereby gains a star

*Actually, this (Haar) is one of the better poems - and he has to 'walk back from town with the milk and a paper'! Unfortunately, haar (Scotch mist) is what the collection amounts to; his compatriot Robin Robertson I find equally wispy - though I must admit I haven't read him lately (saw him paired with Sharon Olds and Paul Muldoon, so perhaps no contest!)

**For a poem with an idea, try Byculture from WN Herbert's Cabaret McGonagall(p104) - and Taste the Difference
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on 13 April 2016
I like John Burnside's writing; I love this book.
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