Burnt Island: Three Suites

Overview

D. Nurkse’s Burnt Island explores tragedy both grand and intimate, in city and country, in our own troubled moment and across the greater scope of geological time. Arranged in three “suites” of lucid, often heart-wrenching verse, the book begins with a city under siege, in a group of poems that becomes a subtle homage to New York after 9/11–a metaphorical “burnt island,” where diggers doze on their shovels, citizens contribute bottles of water, M&M’s, and casseroles to recovery efforts, and survivors, ...
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Burnt Island: Three Suites

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Overview

D. Nurkse’s Burnt Island explores tragedy both grand and intimate, in city and country, in our own troubled moment and across the greater scope of geological time. Arranged in three “suites” of lucid, often heart-wrenching verse, the book begins with a city under siege, in a group of poems that becomes a subtle homage to New York after 9/11–a metaphorical “burnt island,” where diggers doze on their shovels, citizens contribute bottles of water, M&M’s, and casseroles to recovery efforts, and survivors, mesmerized by the photos of the missing, compare them “scar by scar with the faces of the living.” Nurkse then takes up the journey of a couple starting again in nature at a specific place called Burnt Island, where the elements instruct them, seeming to mirror their conflicts and strife. Finally, in a charming and profound series of poems centered on marine ecology, he finds the infinite in the infinitesimally small, and offers us, in sparkling, mysterious verses, the strange comfort that comes with observing the life of the ocean.

we are like you because we are born by the billions and float into the open ocean–
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
we live another second or much less, less than a blink,

until the code comes to know itself and the mind dreams another mind that will survive it there, in the bright curtain of spray.

(from “The Granite Coast”)

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The poems of this eighth collection center on its vivid title-sometimes a metaphorical September 11-era Manhattan, sometimes a real place where older-and-wiser lovers retreat to sift themselves, and their relationship, from the ashes. When the poems fail, they fail badly: "I made friends/ with a dead sparrow/ I found on the sidewalk," for example, opens "Night Flight." But when they work, Nurkse's simple observations and images open out into a gloriously pulp defamiliarization. "Space Marriage" begins "Our starship blew up/ between Alpha Centaur/ and the Second Quadrant/ but we could not die." The terrific "Nine Crows" ("Remember our bright eyes?/ Our sarcastic weariness?") inaugurates a series of poems where flora and fauna perform, with a kind of disdainful bravura, a panoply of human fears and faiblesses. Taken as a whole, the book moves through its various perspectives with more than enough assurance to carry one past the numerous weaker sections, making this the collection to bring Brooklyn's former poet laureate wider acclaim. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In his eighth collection, Nurkse-former poet laureate of Brooklyn and winner of a prestigious Whiting Award-continues to develop his unique voice. This is not poetry formed by trendy MFA programs but an intense political and personal exploration finely ordered: from public and private deaths as the poet moves through New York City after 9/11 ("Falling objects are so beautiful,/ especially when you've grown old/ and worry you won't love again") and personal crisis and resolution in a summer beach community to island nature. No man is an island, but in Nurkse's vision "we are each built of water/ locked in a membrane." The poems and the visions that inform them are uncluttered and deceptively simple, but their intricacies resonate. Reading this book once or twice simply isn't enough. Only in the final section-where he borrows from his readings of naturalists such as Rachel Carson to speak in the personae of various obscure insects and sea creatures-do his poems seem somewhat trivial, empty constructs. An essential purchase for all libraries.-Rochelle Ratner, formerly with Soho Weekly News, New York Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375710803
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/16/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 128
  • Product dimensions: 5.85 (w) x 8.35 (h) x 0.35 (d)

Meet the Author

D. Nurkse is the author of eight books of poetry. He has received the Whiting Writers’ Award, two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, two grants from the New York State Foundation for the Arts, and other awards. He has also written widely on human rights.

D. Nurkse’s The Fall is available in Knopf paperback.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

D. Nurkse’s Burnt Island explores tragedy both grand and intimate, in city and country, in our own troubled moment and across the greater scope of geological time. Arranged in three “suites” of lucid, often heart-wrenching verse, the book begins with a city under siege, in a group of poems that becomes a subtle homage to New York after 9/11–a metaphorical “burnt island,” where diggers doze on their shovels, citizens contribute bottles of water, M&M’s, and casseroles to recovery efforts, and survivors, mesmerized by the photos of the missing, compare them “scar by scar with the faces of the living.” Nurkse then takes up the journey of a couple starting again in nature at a specific place called Burnt Island, where the elements instruct them, seeming to mirror their conflicts and strife. Finally, in a charming and profound series of poems centered on marine ecology, he finds the infinite in the infinitesimally small, and offers us, in sparkling, mysterious verses, the strange comfort that comes with observing the life of the ocean.

we are like you
because we are born by the billions
and float into the open ocean–
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
we live another second
or much less, less than a blink,

until the code comes to know itself
and the mind dreams another mind
that will survive it
there, in the bright curtain of spray.

(from “The Granite Coast”)
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

My father's closet 3
Night flight 5
Saint Luke 6
A puzzle at Saint Luke 8
Two nights in the men's shelter 9
4:00 a.m 11
A walk in Giovanna's Park 13
The ring 15
The last judgment 17
The evacuation corridor 19
Ruth 21
October rendezvous 23
The civilian casualties 25
Searchers 27
The reunification center 28
A hike to Little Falls 31
Germaine River 33
Herkimer 34
North of Althea 37
Picnic at Opposite Island 39
Cape Ann 41
Home 43
War on the ants 45
Magnet Bay 46
The marriage in Canaan 48
Burnt Island 50
Origins of desire 52
Space marriage 55
The dark universe 58
Marriage in a rented house 60
Separation at Burnt Island 62
Diaspore 67
Nine crows 68
Fringillidae 71
Six red spiders in the elm at High Falls 73
Hymenoptera : the ants 74
The river monarchs 78
Tardigrades 79
Eel migration 81
Five marine solitudes 82
Brittle star 85
Defenses of the ocean 87
The pressure zone 93
The little sea 95
The many-eyed Nemerteans 98
Leuresthes Tenuis 100
Pelagos 102
Mysticeti 104
Cetacea 105
The granite coast 106
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