Fiction all one breath

Published on March 20th, 2014


All One Breath by John Burnside

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Blurb: 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. (Jonathan Cape, February 2014)

Kate Kellaway, The Observer

“You might have expected that after Black Cat Bone, which won the TS Eliot and the Forward prizes, John Burnside would produce no more than an afterthought of a collection. But All One Breath, his 13th, is a fully realised marvel, one of the most charged collections I have read in a long time. His writing is earthed and ethereal – there is a rare equilibrium to it.”

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Sarah Crown, The Guardian

“Despite the turbulence of his upbringing (or possibly because of it), his poetry has focused on the importance of family and relationships.All One Breath, by contrast, is bleakly occupied with isolation. We may be surrounded by people, Burnside suggests, but when the chips are down, we’re on our own, “out at the end of winter, turning away / to where the dark begins, far in the trees”. It’s an image that sums up the collection’s spirit: this is a mid-life, dark woods kind of a book; death-haunted and offering precious little in the way of comfort.”

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Sean O’Brien, The Independent

“At the back of Burnside’s mind there seems to a circle he cannot square. He is not alone in this. On the one hand we are a part of the world, dependent on its integrity, part of the “choir” of existence, and on the other we destroy it – if “we” are indeed one tribe and not us and them. Other parts of the book are full of doubles, too – the face in the mirror, the self as performed and as endured or concealed, the way that being here makes the idea of elsewhere so implacably and beautifully desirable.”

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