John Burnside/Great Britain, 1955
John Burnside (1955) is a Scottish poet and writer. He studied English and European literature at Cambridgeshire College of Art and Technology, and today at the University of St. He teaches Andrews creative writing, American poetry, and poetry and ecology. He has written eight novels, three collections of short prose, and fifteen poetry collections for which he has received numerous awards, including the T. S. Eliot Award, the Forward Award, and the Whitbread Award.
The author will be presented at the festival with a video reading and video interview.
Like me, you sometimes waken
early in the dark
thinking you have driven miles
through inward country,
feeling around you still
the streaming trees and startled waterfowl
and summered cattle
swinging through your headlamps.
Sometimes you linger days
upon a word,
a single, uncontaminated drop
of sound; for days
it trembles, liquid to the mind,
dimming in the undertow of language.
There were different words for dust:
one for the powdered film
of shading on a closed room’s
and one for the inch-thick
layer of talcum and fibre
under the bed,
but nothing to describe the vividness
of rain-dark fur and flesh that shaped and gloved
the body of a fox beside the road,
and nothing for the presence still to come,
when wind and sunlight fretted at the bone,
cutting towards the basics of the form:
the knitted spine, the hunter’s steady grin.
The wood where I was gone
for ages, on those Sunday afternoons:
lost on purpose, looking for the lithe
weasel in the grass,
stopped in my tracks, the way you stop
for echoes. Gone into the cool
of summer, passing the line
where sunlight snagged in the nettles,
I wanted the pink-toothed
killer, the casual
expert, the tribal memory of one
who slips into the chicken runs of mind
and works his way with something of my own
bright rage towards the folly of the damned.