Still life with feeding snake

30 January 2017

Still life with feeding snake cover

On Thursday 2 February, Professor John Burnside's most recent collection of poetry, Still Life With Feeding Snake, will be published by Jonathan Cape.

From our earliest childhood experiences, we learn to see the world as contested space: a battleground between received ideas, entrenched conventions and myriad Authorised Versions on the one hand, and new discoveries, terrible dangers, and everyday miracles on the other. As we grow, that world expands further, to include new species, lost continents, the realm of the dead and the lives of others: cosmonauts swim in distant space, unseen creatures pass through a garden at dusk; we are surrounded by delectable mysteries.

The question of this contested, liminal world sits at the centre of Still Life with Feeding Snake, whose poems live at the edge of loss, or on the cusp of epiphany, always seeking that brief instant of grace when we see what is before us, and not just what we expected to find.

On the same day, John also has a second book, Ashland and Vine, published by Cape. It is a novel involving a Scheherazade-like matrix of tales, some painfully final, some still unfinished, which offers a heartbreaking account, not only of one family, but of the American century itself, from World War II to Vietnam and the Weather Underground. 

Ashland and Vine is the story of an unlikely friendship that transcends time, age and the limits of narrative to reveal the unexpected grace that comes of listening to another's history, while telling, as carefully as we can, what we know of our own.

Both volumes will be launched at the British Library in London on Thursday 2 February.