Monday, February 16, 2015

Poetry Monday: Joanne Burns

It’s been a long sleep between Poetry Mondays - sorry readers!  It’s not because I haven’t been reading poetry - far from it.  In fact, tomorrow I’ll be interviewing Philip Salom about his phenomenal and challenging poetry triptych Alterworld, which accompanied me through the Whitsundays.   I’ve just done a bit of a clean-up of my bedside table and behold, there was Joanne Burns’ Brush with its colourful and surreal Ned Kelly-like cover art painted by Joy Hester.  Brush had been there all along, hidden beneath a pile of chunkier bully books.  I picked it up and began reading, and was immediately taken in by the up-to-the-minute sharpness of Burns’ words, the playfulness, the taut and very modern intensity, and how relevant the poems are.  Here’s a bit from the opener, “factoidal”:
does your share portfolio ache
unlock your teeth in the adrenal winds,
the facilitationality of a sea of nomadic desks
doesn’t need to be seen to be believed --
Not once does Burns let the reader off the hook.  There’s plenty of tenderness and playfulness, but always with a reminder of our posturing, our facades, our absurdities, and by ‘our’ I really mean ‘my’.  Despite the sharp edges, it seems like each poem finishes with a little wink - a kind of “get it” that allows the reader to join in the laughter (“It’s neptune or never”).  I’m still reading and intend to take my time, as I like to with poetry - reading a couple of poems before bedtime and letting them unhinge my dreams, then sneaking one during the day, maybe a few more in the afternoon...almost clandestinely, working through them secretly in my head.  If you’d like to sample a bit more of Burns, there are 249 (!) of her poems here at the Australian Poetry Library.  I quite liked “Thief” which you can read in its entirety at:
he would chew
deep through the moon
offering us just the dust
and thread every little star
through the spaces in his thought

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