The finest book yet from one of Britain's most important young poets.
Lucid, tender, and strangely troubling, the poems in The Asylum Dance – which won the Whitbread Prize for Poetry in 2000 – are hymns to the tension between the sanctuary of home and the lure of escape. This is territory that Burnside has made his own: a domestic world threaded through with myth and longing, beyond which lies a no man’s land – the ‘somewhere in between’ – of dusk or dawn, of mists or sudden light, where the epiphanies are.
Using the framework of four long poems, ‘Ports’, ‘Settlements’, ‘Fields’ and ‘Roads’, the poet balances presence with absence; we are shown the homing instinct – felt in the blood and marrow – as a pull to refuge, simplicity, and a safe haven, while at the same time hearing the siren call from the world beyond: the thrilling expectancy of fairground or dancehall, the possibilities of the open road. With a confident open line and complete command of the language, John Burnside writes with grace, agility and profound philosophical purpose, confirming his position in the front rank of contemporary poetry.