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Ruin, Blossom

John Burnside
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Vintage Publishing (Jonathan Cape Ltd)
Published: April 11, 2024
ISBN: 9781529909258
80 pages
Country of publication: United Kingdom


In this powerful, moving new book, John Burnside takes his cue from Schiller, who recognised that, as one thing fades, so another flourishes: everywhere and always, in matters great and small, new life blossoms amongst the ruins.

Here, in poems that explore ageing, mortality, environmental destruction and mental illness, Burnside not only mourns what is lost in passing, but also celebrates the new, and sometimes unexpected, forms that emerge from such losses. An elegy for a dead lover ends with a quiet recognition of everyday beauty – first sun streaming through the trees … a skylark in the near field, flush with song – as the speaker emerges from lockdown after a long illness.

Throughout, the poet attends to the quality of grace – numinous, exquisite, fleeting as an angel’s wing – and the broken tryst between humankind and its spiritual and animal elements, even with itself: the gaunt deer on the roads/like refugees. He acknowledges the inevitability of the fading towards death, but still finds chimes of light in the darkness – insisting that, here and now, even in decline, the world, when given its due attention, is all Annunciation.

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