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About the book
  • Published: 6 February 2014
  • ISBN: 9781448139910
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 96

All One Breath




The new collection from the author of Black Cat Bone, which won both the Forward and the T.S. Eliot Prize



Shortlisted for the 2014 T.S. Eliot Prize and the Forward Prize for Best Collection



A New Statesman Book of the Year

Shortlisted for the 2014 T.S. Eliot Prize and the Forward Prize for Best Collection

‘There are lines in All One Breath for instance, that brand themselves into your brain with the fire of painful recognition. And yet it is also part of his genius to be ever alert to beauty, too.’ - Sebastian Barry, a New Statesman Book of the Year

In this absorbing, brilliant new collection – his first since Black Cat Bone – John Burnside examines our shared experience of this mortal world: how we are ‘all one breath’ and – with that breath – how we must strive towards the harmony of choir. 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.

He presents the world in a series of still lifes, in tableaux vivants and tableaux morts, in laboratory tests, anatomy lessons, in a Spiegelkabinett where the reflections in the mirrors, distorted as they seem, reveal buried truths. All the images are in some sense self-portraits: all are, in some way, elegies.

One of the finest and most celebrated lyric poets at work today, John Burnside is a master of the moment – when the frames of our film seem to slow and stop and a life slips through the gap in between – and each poem here is a perfect, uncanny hymn to humanity, set down ‘to tell the lives of others’.

  • Pub date: 6 February 2014
  • ISBN: 9781448139910
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 96

About the Author

John Burnside

John Burnside is amongst the most acclaimed writers of his generation. His novels, short stories, poetry and memoirs have won numerous awards, including the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the Whitbread Poetry Award, the Encore Award and the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year. In 2011 he became only the second person to win both the Forward and T. S. Eliot Prizes for poetry for the same book, Black Cat Bone. In 2015 he was a judge for the Man Booker Prize. He is a Professor in the School of English at St Andrews University.

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Praise for All One Breath

“There are lines in All One Breath for instance, that brand themselves into your brain with the fire of painful recognition. And yet it is also part of his genius to be ever alert to beauty, too.”

Sebastian Barry, New Statesman, Book of the Year

“One of the most charged collections I have read in a long time. [Burnside's] writing is earthed and ethereal – there is a rare equilibrium to it... Breathtaking.”

Kate Kellaway, Observer

“John Burnside is a genius... He is constantly live to alternative possibilities and versions of himself, as close yet unreachable as his own shadow. His responses to the world are so raw, it's as if he's missing a skin – or perhaps the rest of us have grown hides to make life manageable.”

Maggie Fergusson, Intelligent Life

“Rare and memorable beauty... For all the melancholy of this collection, Burnside is not a nihilist; the glory of these poems shows us that.”

Sarah Crown, Guardian

“Memory and self-reflection merge into elegy... Burnside is a master of the final clinching line... Across the length of whole poems and the whole book there is great wisdom about how people learn to get along with family and with their own past selves, "the backrooms of the heart"; about the limits of self and body; and about how human beings have mistaken and abused the non-human.”

Matthew Sperling, New Statesman

“[Burnside] has a mysterious yet philosophical way of coming at us slant, using beautiful, light-touch descriptions of the material world.”

Fiona Sampson, Independent

“Too often poets are portrayed as meek and mild, emollients in an age scarred by abrasiveness. John Burnside, it is a pleasure to report, is not of that genus... There is a terrible beauty to Burnside's anger.”

Alan Taylor, Herald

“It is a rare thing for a poet to step out of the pack and move beyond mere critical appreciation into something like the mainstream; but a new John Burnside will now fly out of the shops with unbard-like haste.”

Belfast Telegraph

“Contemporary lyric poetry is seldom better.”

Totally Dublin


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