Lucid, tender, and strangely troubling, the poems in The Asylum Dance - which won the Whitbread Prize for Poetry - are hymns to the tension between the sanctuary of home and the lure of escape.
Lucid, tender, and strangely troubling, the poems in The Asylum Dance - which won the Whitbread Prize for Poetry in 2000 - are hymns to the tension between the sanctuary of home and the lure of escape. This is territory that Burnside has made his own- a domestic world threaded through with myth and longing, beyond which lies a no man's land - the 'somewhere in between' - of dusk or dawn, of mists or sudden light, where the epiphanies are.Using the framework of four long poems, 'Ports', 'Settlements', 'Fields' and 'Roads', the poet balances presence with absence; we are shown the homing instinct - felt in the blood and marrow - as a pull to refuge, simplicity, and a safe haven, while at the same time hearing the siren call from the world beyond- the thrilling expectancy of fairground or dancehall, the possibilities of the open road. With a confident open line and complete command of the language, John Burnside writes with grace, agility and profound philosophical purpose, confirming his position in the front rank of contemporary poetry.
John Burnside is amongst the most acclaimed writers of his generation. His novels, short stories, poetry and memoirs have won numerous awards, including the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the Whitbread Poetry Award, the Encore Award and the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year. In 2011 he became only the second person to win both the Forward and T. S. Eliot Prizes for poetry for the same book, Black Cat Bone. In 2015 he was a judge for the Man Booker Prize. He is a Professor in the School of English at St Andrews University.
"If genius is operating anywhere in English poetry at present, I feel it is here, in Burnside's singular music" -- Adam Thorpe Observer "A poet of rare and extraordinary talent" -- Michael Bracewell Independent "Lyrical beauty, emotional charge and unforced clarity of form... His poems are acts of revelation" Scotsman "Burnside has a stillness and emotional restraint, a respect for the observer and observed alike which is serious, exemplary and rare" Times Literary Supplement "Burnside's vision is of another, sacred, fragile world that co-exists with our own dailiness: his gift is the ability, through poems of a rare and exquisite precision of language, to let his reader glimpse it" -- Elizabeth Burns Scotsman
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