Saturday, March 17, 2012


I have been reading John Burnside's book Black Cat Bone; I'll be posting more about it, but for now: (1) here, qua teaser, are some bits that are available online: "Late Show", "Nativity" and "Loved and Lost" (the latter has a wonderful ending), the long narrative poem "The Fair Chase", "Notes Towards an Ending", and "Pieter Brueghel: Winter Landscape with Skaters and Bird Trap, 1565". (2) Burnside is very good; he is one of those obsessive airless writers without much scenic range -- I am reminded most powerfully of Charles Wright (also, but mostly by coincidence, of Joyce Carol Oates); Burnside often uses the late-Wright trick of starting a poem with a stage-direction line like "Night" -- whose interests are fashionably liminal. There is a lot of dawn/birth/spring ("the trees emerging, piecemeal, from the cold"), a blur of intimations-of-the-otherworldly, and a wealth of headlights. (3) The real point of this post is to note a lovely word that, as far as I can tell, Burnside made up; it appears in the closing lines of this book:
this is the time of year
when nothing to see
gives way to the hare in flight, the enormous

beauty of it stark against the mud
and thawglass on the track, before
it darts away, across the open fields

and leaves me dumbstruck, ready to be persuaded.

The meaning is fairly obvious -- I won't embarrass myself with a paraphrase, but will recall this -- and it is the sort of word that ought to be a word, but I cannot locate any uses outside of Burnside's poems. (There is another, earlier poem with "a litter of small gold apples, newly fallen, / wet with thawglass.")

No comments: