If you are familiar with this site, then, since this is the fourth book of his I’ve reviewed, you’ll be familiar with the name Wayne F. Burke. There are about half a dozen writers whose work I have reviewed with some measure of consistency; none so much, though, as Burke. Many poets find their voice and seldom stray from it, which makes reviewing book after book, without repeating oneself, a somewhat laborious affair. Despite his distinctive voice, definite style, and established patterns, Burke’s installments of poetry have somehow managed to remain a pleasure to paw through in an effort toward analysis.
In 2014, of his first book, Words That Burn, I said this.
Then in 2015 there was Dickhead, Burke’s second collection of poems, where I said this.
In 2016 I reviewed his third collection, Knuckle Sandwiches and said this.
If you own a copy of Knuckle Sandwiches, you’ll know from my blurb on the back of that book, that I have even gone as far as claiming Burke’s poetic genius.
Much like its predecessors, A Lark Up The Nose Of Time is broken into sections; six to be precise. The book has ninety-two pages, seventy-five poems and is dedicated to Shelia O’Grady, Steven Grande and coach Tim Corkery – Teachers, all.
The first section is titled Dirty Sun and is made up of childhood poems. Each of Burke’s books have their share of narrative poems which are reflective of a different time. They look back upon the days of childish play and lessons learnt the hard way. In these poems, the strange dynamics within the family unit become stories of their own. There are predatory types, there is inherent racism, children are yet to be robbed of their imaginations by the so-called wonders of modern technology, men throw fists and women clip ears. There is a constant line of friction in Wayne’s opus, particularly in the childhood poems. The more I read them, the friction becomes more and more representative of what’s in store. Each bloodied nose, each rejection, every disappointment, all the best-laid plans, become a practice run for the daily grind of adult life.
In the second section, Ripe Banana, there is the aforementioned, ubiquitous friction; this time, the trouble is in the hands of young men. There is work, both fruitful and futile. There is drunkenness and its inevitable consequence. There are fights and incarceration. Most importantly of all, though, there are moments of profound pain in among the macho horse-shit and gratuity. None more so than in the poem, Roy. Here Burke displays a rare talent for capturing the way men talk and the horrors of abuse.
was a so- called “carpenter”
and I his helper
and one day
driving to a job
he waved to a guy on the roadside
and I asked who the guy was
and Roy said “my older brother”
and after a mile or so
“he fucked me in the ass
when we were kids”
and I glanced over at him
and he kind of laughed
and I thought of what I should say
and after another mile
“have you gone to counselling?”
and he turned and looked out the window
and after another mile
(from Roy in Full, p32)
Part three, A Lark Up The Nose Of Time, has seven poems which pull together, demonstrating that each moment is one part of many moments, that collectively make up the whole thing. Burke makes sharp use of imagery here as “hurricane winds drove white sea horses/to shore” in the titular poem. And in Twilight, “…I sat on the porch/and waited/a week of afternoons/on a street of third floor/walk-ups/and peaked roofs/and gloomy twilights/and car headlights few/and far between.” In Sonata No.21, an ambulance screams into/view;/trees with new green bud-dresses/wave…the sky is silent/as always/nothing but blue to say.”
The fourth section is called Haiku-You!, and as the title suggests it is devoted in its entirety to the haiku traditions. I made reference to haiku in my review of Knuckle Sandwiches and it seems pertinent to repeat it here.
“The key factor to Wayne’s poetry and prose are the subtle shifts of linked subject matter. In many ways his work is reminiscent of ancient Japanese traditions. That’s not to say he writes according to a standardised structure, these poems are as free as the wind, but he does use some of the defining characteristics found in haiku. There are often two juxtaposing images or ideas within the poems which work as a relational comparison of opposing elements. This is most obvious in the short poems that separate the sections of the book. In fact, I am quite comfortable labelling these as haiku. They don’t follow the structural 5-7-5 pattern that popular culture seems to think defines haiku, but they do capture a moment and expand on it with the aforementioned relational comparison of separate elements.”
walk with my hands
in my pockets
among the descendants of the Mayflower
an old crow
in the parking lot
welcomes me to the nursing home
The fifth and penultimate section, Politics, Politics, is four rhythmic poems, spoken by a narrator who is baffled by the buffoonery of our time.
The sixth and final section, Spare Tooth, has a certain calm about it. The friction is there, but it is subdued somehow by the lessons learnt. We find our narrator in his favourite chair, with closed curtains and chosen solitude, his imagination sufficient company. It’s hard to know how much of Burke’s work is autobiographical. My suspicion is that the poems therein are based on life experience. I can’t imagine stories so well told, happening as they appear on the page. As I have stated previously of Burke’s style, he has a way of using language un-befitting to idle chit-chat, yet he pulls it off as everyday conversation. These poems are not dashed off and sent out. Here is a poet who believes in the hard craft of his work. Words That Burn, Dickhead, Knuckle Sandwiches and A Lark Up The Nose Of Time are handsome, well-crafted, stylish books of living narrative.
Title: A Lark Up The Nose of Time
Page Count: 92
Author: Wayne F. Burke
Publisher: Bareback Press
Publication Date: June 2017
Cover Price: Paperback $12.50
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