'A Temporary, Sometimes Fleeting Thing': home in John Burnside's poetry

Monika Szuba


Being in transit, negotiating one’s place in the world, and searching for home constitute recurrent themes in John Burnside work. Home has been one of the poet’s major preoccupations since the early collections. As Robert Crawford points out, the title of his second poetry volume, Common Knowledge (1991), was originally to have been called Home. According to Louisa Gairn, Burnside questions “the philosophical idea of ‛home’ or ‛belonging’”, informed by Heideggerian concept of dwelling. In his poems and essays, Burnside foregrounds the necessity to negotiate our life in this world, stressing man’s need to find a home, even if it is marked by temporariness and impermanence. Burnside’s view of the natural world is far from sentimental as in some poems he addresses the unhomely nature of the earth, the speaker yearning for the reconnection with the natural world, constantly posing the question “of belonging, a reckoning, and an accommodation, with the world around us, where no home is offered”. Undoubtedly, this sense of unhomeliness pervades some of the poems. Following Heidegger, Burnside addresses “the proper dwelling plight”, highlighting the constant construction and reconstruction of place. Many poems evoke a familiar setting, a milieu we feel at home in, especially when we are equipped with the capacity to name and thus domesticate the unknown. As the act of naming foregrounds the capacity of language to order the world, a way to create the centre of the real, the ability to name suggests the possibility to dwell. Struggling with the inexpressible, poetic language invests signs appearing in the natural world with meaning. Yet language also invents, ushering in imprecision and vagueness. All of the above is explored by Burnside, who stresses the fact that live “inside a grimoire we cannot read”, his work offering an attempt at writing a grammar of belonging. The aim of this essay is to examine Burnside’s poetic explorations of the nature of home in the context of Heideggerian concept of dwelling. It seeks to provide an analysis of its geographical, as well as temporal and ontological aspects. Further, it will discuss how these negotiations are related to Burnside’s poetic search for connection with the natural world, demonstrating longing for unity and wholeness. Finally, it will discuss the function of language in creating the sense of home. In order to do that I will attempt to analyse selected texts considering both thematic aspects and technical variety of Burnside’s poetry.
Author Monika Szuba (FL/IEAS)
Monika Szuba,,
- Institute of English and American Studies
Publication size in sheets0.65
Book Davies Ben (eds.): John Burnside, Contemporary Critical Perspectives, 2020, Bloomsbury Publishing, ISBN 978-1-3500-3697-0, [978-1-3500-3699-4, 978-1-3500-3698-7], 186 p.
Keywords in PolishJohn Burnside, poezja, Martin Heidegger, bytność, bytowanie
Keywords in EnglishJohn Burnside, poetry, Martin Heidegger, being-in-the-world, dwelling
Languageen angielski
Score (nominal)75
Score correctionScore increased (at least one author (N) declares Humanities, Social sciences or Theological science)
Score sourcepublisherList
ScoreMinisterial score = 75.0, 18-02-2020, MonographChapterAuthor
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