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John Burnside - Author

About the Author

John Burnside has published eleven previous collections of poetry, including among them The Asylum Dance, which won the 2000 Whitbread Poetry Award, and six works of fiction - most recently the novel, A Summer of Drowning, which came out this year. He has also written two books of memoirs, A Lie About My Father and Waking Up In Toytown.

Featured books by John Burnside

I Put a Spell on You

I Put a Spell on You

Author: John Burnside Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/05/2014

In this exquisite, haunting book, John Burnside describes his coming of age from the industrial misery of Cowdenbeath and Corby to the new world of Cambridge. This is a memoir of romance - of lost love and the love of being lost - darkened by threat, illuminated by glamour. The old Scots word 'glamour' means magical charm, and the first time he was played I Put a Spell on You, John Burnside thought he had never heard a more beautiful song - it was an enchantment, a fascination that would turn to obsession. Implicit in the song were all the ambiguities that intrigued him - love, possession and danger - and this book is an exploration of the darker side of glamour and attraction. Beginning with memories of a brutal murder, the book follows the author through a series of uncanny encounters with 'lost girls', with brilliant digressions on murder ballads, voodoo, acid and insomnia, and a cast that includes Kafka and Narcissus, Diane Arbus and Mel Lyman, The Four Tops and Screamin' Jay Hawkins, and time spent lost in the Arctic Circle, black-and-white films and a mental institution. Ending with the tender summoning of the ghost of his dying mother as she sings along to the radio in her empty kitchen, I Put a Spell on You is a book about memory, about the other side of love: a book of secrets and wonders.

ebook of the month
All One Breath

All One Breath

Author: John Burnside Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/02/2014

This is shortlisted for the 2014 T.S. Eliot Prize and the Forward Prize for Best Collection. In this absorbing, brilliant new collection - his first since Black Cat Bone - John Burnside examines our shared experience of this mortal world: how we are 'all one breath' and - with that breath - how we must strive towards the harmony of choir. Recognising that our attitudes to other creatures - human and non-human - cause too much damage and hurt, that 'we've been going at this for years: a steady delete of anything that tells us what we are', these poems celebrate the fleeting, charged moments where, through measured and gracious encounters with other lives, we find our true selves, and bring some brief, insubstantial goodness and beauty into being. He presents the world in a series of still lifes, in tableaux vivants and tableaux morts, in laboratory tests, anatomy lessons, in a Spiegelkabinett where the reflections in the mirrors, distorted as they seem, reveal buried truths. All the images are in some sense self-portraits: all are, in some way, elegies. One of the finest and most celebrated lyric poets at work today, John Burnside is a master of the moment - when the frames of our film seem to slow and stop and a life slips through the gap in between - and each poem here is a perfect, uncanny hymn to humanity, set down 'to tell the lives of others'.

ebook of the month
Black Cat Bone

Black Cat Bone

Author: John Burnside Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/08/2011

Winner of the T S Eliot Prize for Poetry 2011. John Burnside's remarkable new book is full of strange, unnerving poems that hang in the memory like a myth or a song. These are poems of thwarted love and disappointment, of raw desire, of the stalking beast, 'eye-teeth/and muzzle/coated with blood'; poems that recognise 'we have too much to gain from the gods, and this is why/they fail to love us'; and, poems that tell of an obsessive lover coming to grief in a sequence that echoes the old murder ballads, or of a hunter losing himself in the woods while pursuing an unknown and possibly unknowable quarry. Drawing on sources as various as the paintings of Pieter Brueghel and the lyrics of Delta blues, Black Cat Bone examines varieties of love, faith, hope and illusion, to suggest an unusual possibility: that when the search for what we expected to find - in the forest or in our own hearts - ends in failure, we can now begin the hard and disciplined quest for what is actually there. Full of risk and wonder, Black Cat Bone shows the range of Burnside's abilities, but also strikes out for new territories. He remains consistently, though, one of our finest living lyric poets and each of these astonishing poems is as clear and memorable as 'a silver bracelet/falling for days/through an inch and a half/of ice'.

ebook of the month

Other books by John Burnside

The Hunt in the Forest

The Hunt in the Forest

Author: John Burnside Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 27/02/2020

Taking its title from Uccello's famous painting of a band of men - on foot and on horseback - massing for the chase, John Burnside's new poems take us on a journey out of the light and into the darkness, where we may just as easily lose ourselves as find what we are looking for. In these poems of hunting and predation, Burnside explores our most deep-rooted and primeval pursuits: romantic love, memory, selfhood, grief, the recollection of the dead. Yet just as we seek, so are we sought out: at any moment we may slide into loss or be gathered in by some otherworldly light; at any moment, the angel of the annunciation may seek us out and demand some astonishing transformation. Even in the pursuit of love, or in the exercise of memory, we fall into snares and become entangled in veils; just as we are always on the point of discovery, so we are always a hair's-breadth away from being lost. Concerned with love and mourning, with what we discover and what remains hidden - with learning how to follow the trail through the forest and find the way home - above all, these poems are about the quest: knowing that whatever we bring back from the hunt, it is always hard-won and never fully our own. With this extraordinary collection of fleet and deftly beautiful poems, John Burnside confirms his place at the forefront of writing, as one of a handful of truly important British poets working today.

The Music of Time

The Music of Time

Author: John Burnside Format: Hardback Release Date: 19/02/2020

A revelatory and deeply personal history of twentieth-century poetry by prize-winning poet and memoirist John Burnside Poetry helps us to make sense of our world, transforming what the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam called the noise of time into a kind of music. The Music of Time is a unique history of twentieth-century poetry by one of today's most acclaimed poets, blending incandescent personal meditations with rare insights about a broad range of poets who distilled the essence of the moment, gave voice to our griefs and joys, and shaped our collective memory. Bringing together poets from times and places as diverse as Tsarist Russia, 1960s Harlem, and Ireland at the height of the Troubles, Burnside reveals how poetry responded to the dramatic events of the century while shaping our impressions of them. He takes readers from the trenches of World War I to a prison cell in Nazi Germany, and from Rilke's grave in the Swiss Alps to Dylan Thomas's Welsh seaside. His luminous narrative is woven through with insights into the poet's creative process as well as lyrical and thought-provoking digressions on topics ranging from marriage to the Kennedy assassination. A spellbinding work of literary history, The Music of Time reveals how poets engaged with the most important issues and events of the twentieth century, and bears personal witness to the beauty and power of an art form unlike any other.

The Music of Time

The Music of Time

Author: John Burnside Format: Hardback Release Date: 03/10/2019

A Financial Times Book of the Year Though we might not realise it, our collective memory of the twentieth century was defined by the poets who lived and wrote in it. At every significant turning point we find them, pen in hand, fingers poised at the typewriter, ready to distil the essence of the moment, from the muddy wastes of the Western front to the vast reckoning that came with the end of empire. This is the first and only history of twentieth century poetry, by the acclaimed poet, author and academic John Burnside. Bringing together poets from times and places as diverse as Tsarist Russia, 1960's America and Ireland at the height of the Troubles, The Music of Time reveals how poets engaged with and shaped the most important issues of their times - and were in their turn affected by their context and dialogue with each other. This is a major work of scholarship, that on every page bears witness to the transformative beauty and power of poetry.

Cornerstones

Cornerstones

Author: John Burnside, Linda Cracknell, Alan Garner Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/07/2018

Although mostly concealed, our bedrock geology profoundly determines what we see around us - not just our landforms, but the built environment too, from Aberdeen, often called the granite city to Bath, constructed from honey-coloured limestone- rocks shape the world around us. In Cornerstones, some of Britain's leading landscape and nature writers consider their relationship with the ground beneath their feet. Distinguished by a strong sense of place and close observation, these essays take the reader out into the landscape and convey the tactile heft, grain and rub of the rock, showing how it shapes our familiar landscapes. Adapted from the successful BBC Radio Three series, Cornerstones explores how different rock types give rise to their own distinct flora and fauna, and even affect the food we eat.

On Henry Miller

On Henry Miller

Author: John Burnside Format: Hardback Release Date: 13/02/2018

An engaging invitation to rediscover Henry Miller-and to learn how his anarchist sensibility can help us escape the air-conditioned nightmare of the modern world The American writer Henry Miller's critical reputation--if not his popular readership-has been in eclipse at least since Kate Millett's blistering critique in Sexual Politics, her landmark 1970 study of misogyny in literature and art. Even a Miller fan like the acclaimed Scottish writer John Burnside finds Miller's sex books -including The Rosy Crucifixion, Tropic of Cancer, and Tropic of Capricorn- boring and embarrassing. But Burnside says that Miller's notorious image as a pornographer and woman hater has hidden his vital, true importance-his anarchist sensibility and the way it shows us how, by fleeing from conformity of all kinds, we may be able to save ourselves from the air-conditioned nightmare of the modern world. Miller wrote that there is no salvation in becoming adapted to a world which is crazy, and in this short, engaging, and personal book, Burnside shows how Miller teaches us to become less adapted to the world, to resist a life sentence to the prison of social, intellectual, emotional, and material conditioning. Exploring the full range of Miller's work, and giving special attention to The Air-Conditioned Nightmare and The Colossus of Maroussi, Burnside shows how, with humor and wisdom, Miller illuminates the misunderstood tradition of anarchist thought. Along the way, Burnside reflects on Rimbaud's enormous influence on Miller, as well as on how Rimbaud and Miller have influenced his own writing. An unconventional and appealing account of an unjustly neglected writer, On Henry Miller restores to us a figure whose searing criticism of the modern world has never been more relevant.

Ashland & Vine

Ashland & Vine

Author: John Burnside Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 01/02/2018

Kate, a grieving, semi-alcoholic film student, invites an elderly woman to take part in an oral-history documentary. Jean declines, but makes her a bizarre counter-offer: if Kate can stay sober for four days, she will tell her a story. If she can stay sober beyond that, there will be another, and then another, amounting to the entire history of one family's life. Gradually, Jean offers a heart-breaking account, not only of her own history - a lost lover, a family scarred by war - but of the American century itself; as a deep connection emerges between the women which will transform both of their lives.

An Essay on Mourning

An Essay on Mourning

Author: John Burnside Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 30/12/2017

This pocket-sized paperback is one of the twenty-four titles published for 2017 Hong Kong International Poetry Nights. The theme of IPHHK2017 is Ancient Enmity . IPNHK is one of the most influential international poetry events in Asia. From 22-26 November 2017, over 20 invited poets from various countries will be in Hong Kong to read their works based on the theme Ancient Enmity. Included in the anthology and box set, these unique works are presented with Chinese and English translations in bilingual or trilingual formats.

Wo die Exekutive ihre Finger einziehtWhere executives would never want to tamper

Wo die Exekutive ihre Finger einziehtWhere executives would never want to tamper

Author: John Burnside Format: eBook Release Date: 26/06/2017

Seit dem Herbst 2016 gibt es in Deutschland ein Haus fur Poesie. Diesen Namen hat sich die Literaturwerkstatt Berlin gegeben, die sich seit langem mit dem poesiefestival berlin mit dem Gedichteportal lyrikonline.org und zahlreichen Lyriklesungen fur diese Gattung engagiert. Die Umbenennung wurde im Berliner Rathaus gefeiert, und Oswald Egger hielt die erste vielbeachtete Berliner Rede zur Poesie die im Wallstein Verlag eine neue Reihe begrundet. Am 18. Juni 2017 wird die Berliner Rede zur Poesie erstmals im Rahmen des poesiefestivals berlin gehalten werden, von dem international mit den hchsten literarischen Auszeichnungen gewrdigten schottischen Autor John Burnside, einem Erzhler von Weltrang und einem eminenten Lyriker (Tobias Dring, FAZ). Burnside zeigt in seinem Vortrag, ausgehend von einem Gedicht W. H. Audens, wie die Poesie berlebt und uns im gleichen Atemzug an unsere animalischen und imaginativen Krfte erinnert, an die Kreatrlichkeit, die wir mit allen anderen lebenden Wesen teilen, sowie an eine kologische Vision, die uns ermglicht, neue Formen des Widerstands gegen die Macht der Manager zu entdecken und erfinden.

Havergey

Havergey

Author: John Burnside Format: Hardback Release Date: 29/03/2017

Havergey does not feature on any maps of the British Isles. Yet this remote island is as real as any, with its limestone stacks, seabirds and human population - a mixture of utopians and nomads who have settled here to build a new kind of society. When a traveller arrives in this small land, bewildered by his long journey and disorientated by the past, he becomes an object of curiosity for the inhabitants, especially the one assigned to watch over him as he spends his first days in 'Quarantine'. Here, in an old building not far from the shore, the traveller is left alone to sift through Havergey's archive, and begins to piece together the fragments of the island's past. As he grows to understand why the people have settled here, fleeing a world in the last throes of ecological and social collapse, he does not know if he, too, will be able to make a home here, on a rock, out in the unforgiving ocean.Havergey reminds us how precious and precarious our world is, and speculates towards a way of living that does not assume people are the most important life form in any landscape.

Still Life with Feeding Snake

Still Life with Feeding Snake

Author: John Burnside Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 02/02/2017

From our earliest childhood experiences, we learn to see the world as contested space: a battleground between received ideas, entrenched conventions and myriad Authorised Versions on the one hand, and new discoveries, terrible dangers, and everyday miracles on the other. As we grow, that world expands further, to include new species, lost continents, the realm of the dead and the lives of others: cosmonauts swim in distant space, unseen creatures pass through a garden at dusk; we are surrounded by delectable mysteries. The question of this contested, liminal world sits at the centre of Still Life with Feeding Snake, whose poems live at the edge of loss, or on the cusp of epiphany, always seeking that brief instant of grace when we see what is before us, and not just what we expected to find. In 'Approaching Sixty', the poet watches as a woman unclasps her hair: 'so the nape of her neck/is visible, slender and pale/for moments, before the spill/of light and russet/falls down to her waist'. This, like each poem in the book, becomes an essay in still life and a memento mori, illuminating transient experience with a profound clarity and a charged, sensual beauty.

The Dumb House

The Dumb House

Author: John Burnside Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 06/08/2015

As a child, Luke's mother often tells him the story of the Dumb House, an experiment on newborn babies raised in silence, designed to test the innateness of language. As Luke grows up, his interest in language and the delicate balance of life and death leads to amateur dissections of small animals - tiny hearts revealed still pumping, as life trickles away. But as an adult, following the death of his mother, Luke's obsession deepens, resulting in a haunting and bizarre experiment on Luke's own children.

I Put a Spell on You

I Put a Spell on You

Author: John Burnside Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 07/05/2015

In this exquisite, haunting book, John Burnside describes his coming of age from the industrial misery of Cowdenbeath and Corby to the new world of Cambridge. This is a memoir of romance - of lost love and the love of being lost - darkened by threat, illuminated by glamour. The old Scots word 'glamour' means magical charm, and the first time he was played I Put a Spell on You, John Burnside thought he had never heard a more beautiful song - it was an enchantment, a fascination that would turn to obsession. Implicit in the song were all the ambiguities that intrigued him - love, possession and danger - and this book is an exploration of the darker side of glamour and attraction. Beginning with memories of a brutal murder, the book follows the author through a series of uncanny encounters with 'lost girls', with brilliant digressions on murder ballads, voodoo, acid and insomnia, and a cast that includes Kafka and Narcissus, Diane Arbus and Mel Lyman, The Four Tops and Screamin' Jay Hawkins, and time spent lost in the Arctic Circle, black-and-white films and a mental institution. Ending with the tender summoning of the ghost of his dying mother as she sings along to the radio in her empty kitchen, I Put a Spell on You is a book about memory, about the other side of love: a book of secrets and wonders.

Something Like Happy

Something Like Happy

Author: John Burnside Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 03/04/2014

In these remarkable stories, John Burnside takes us into the lives of men and women trapped in marriage, ensnared by drink, diminished by disappointment; all kinds of women, all kinds of men - lonely, unfaithful, dying - driving empty roads at night. These are people for whom the idea of 'home' has become increasingly intangible, hard to believe - and happiness, or grace, or freedom, all now seem to belong in some kind of dream, or a fable they might have read in a children's picture book. As he says in one story, 'All a man has is his work and his sense of himself, all the secret life he holds inside that nobody else can know.' But in each of these normal, damaged lives, we are shown something extraordinary: a dogged belief in some kind of hope or beauty that flies in the face of all reason and is, as a result, both transfiguring and heart-rending. John Burnside is unique in contemporary British letters: he is one of our best living poets, but he is also a thrillingly talented writer of fiction. These exquisitely written pieces, each weighted so perfectly, opens up the whole wound of a life in one moment - and each of these twelve short stories carries the freight and density of a great novel.

A Summer of Drowning

A Summer of Drowning

Author: John Burnside Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 01/03/2012

A young girl, Liv, lives with her mother on a remote island in the Arctic Circle. Her only friend is an old man who beguiles her with tales of trolls, mermaids, and the huldra, a wild spirit who appears as an irresistably beautiful girl, to tempt young men to danger and death. Then two boys drown within weeks of each other under mysterious circumstances, in the still, moonlit waters off the shores of Liv's home. Were the deaths accidental or were the boys lured to their doom by a malevolent spirit?

A Summer of Drowning

A Summer of Drowning

Author: John Burnside Format: Hardback Release Date: 09/06/2011

At a critical point in her career, painter Angelika Rossdal suddenly moves to Kvaloya, a small island deep in the Arctic Circle, to dedicate herself to the solitary pursuit of her craft. With her, she brings her young daughter, Liv, who grows up isolated and unable or unwilling to make friends her own age, spending much of her time alone, or with an elderly neighbour, Kyrre Jonsson, who beguiles her with old folk tales and stories about trolls, mermaids and - crucially for the events that unfold in the summer of her eighteenth year - about the huldra, a wild spirit who appears in the form of an irresistibly beautiful girl, to lure young men to their doom. Now twenty-eight, Liv looks back on her life and particularly to that summer when two boys drowned under mysterious circumstances in the still moonlit waters off the shores of Kvaloya. Were the deaths accidental, or were the boys, as Kyrre believes, lured to their deaths by a malevolent spirit? To begin with, Liv dismisses the old man's stories as fantasy, but as the summer continues and events take an even darker turn, she comes to believe that something supernatural is happening on the island. But is it? Or is Liv, a lonely girl who has spent her entire life in the shadow of her beautiful, gifted mother, slowly beginning to lose touch with reality? Set in the white nights of an Arctic summer, the novel has the heightened, hallucinogenic atmosphere of a dream, but culminates in a moment of profound horror. Intensely imagined and exquisitely written, A Summer of Drowning is a play of dark and light, of looking and seeing, that will hold and haunt every reader.

Waking Up in Toytown

Waking Up in Toytown

Author: John Burnside Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 06/01/2011

In the early 80s, after a decade of drug abuse and borderline mental illness, John Burnside resolved to escape his addictive personality and find calm in a 'Surbiton of the mind'. But the suburbs are not quite as normal as he had imagined and, as he relapses into chaos, he encounters a homicidal office worker who is obsessed with Alfred Hitchcock and Petula Clark, an old lover, with whom he reprises a troubled, masochistic relationship and, finally, the seemingly flesh-and-blood embodiemnts of all his private phantoms. The sequel to his haunting, celebrated account of a troubled childhood, Waking Up in Toytown is unsettling, touching, oddly romantic and unflinchingly honest.

Author Info

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https://johnburnside.com/

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