This is a very good book indeed. No one else writes quite like John Burnside and every poem bears the stamp of his unique style - conjuring up strange yet familiar landscapes and emotional states using deceptively simple language and poetic structures. What perhaps makes this collection special is the way that there are blended echoes of influences as diverse as Robert Frost and Edward Thomas and American Blues singers like Charlie Patten - all in the same poems. Highlights for me are the long opening sequence - an evocative chase through mythical forest and farmland - and a moving exploration of the meaning of a painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
This is a book written by a brilliant author at the height of his powers. John Burnside deservedly won the T.S. Eliot Memorial Prize for this volume. Its range is large and disturbing. It encapsulates a world both ancient and disturbingly modern. I had high hopes of it when I read the initial reviews, but it far exceeded those: it is both profound in its subject matter and adept in its poetics. I have not bought a book of poetry so adroit since Seamus Heaney's "Seeing Things".
Beautiful story poems, vividly in touch with the natural world and with inner human spaces. They are sparse but elegant and, using a minimum of words, highly descriptive - like looking at a winter tree blackened against the dusk. In my opinion this is what poetry should be. It is what I aspire to write. Stunning.
John Burnside is a poet at the height of his powers. I have most of his work stretching over the last20 years or so, which means I was on the lookout for his new publication. I was not disappointed. I found the opening long poem about a hunted animal and a hunter both though provoking and poignant. He has an ability to create a rural landscape which is founded in reality but moves easily into a profounder realisation of the possibilities that might lie beyond the surface. These conserns permeate the rest of the shorter poems in the book. I finished it with a great deal of satisfaction and will reread soon to explore his vision more deeply