John Burnside – Apostasy (Dare-Gale Press)



Judges’ Comments 

The word that sings most yearningly in Apostasy is ‘nothing.’ We might have met that particular nothing in an older essay, where John Burnside speaks, in a flurry of tender, reticent dependent clauses, about the lovers at a point of their separation by death being granted a glimpse of “an extraordinary nothing that steadies the world.” The pamphlet explores the possibilities of disavowals and negations; yet the poetry’s effect is a manifestation of various miraculous presences, whether in the shimmer of the optative or in the radiance of the counterfactual. Perhaps apostasy should be understood simply as standing away, a step out of oneself, a viewpoint that allows seeing both the touching fiction of what there is and an ambiguous glory of what could have been.


A Footnote to Colossians

For ye are dead, and your life is hid

St Paul


Let us remember

the stillborn: how they


cede their places here

with such good grace


that no one ever

speaks of them



In school,


we placed them, carefully,

in Limbo,


deep in the folds of smoke

and snowfall, where


their names would never

find them:


pagan, now,

and immaterial,


like phantoms,

or that


boy I sometimes saw

in polaroids,


the one they said

was me.

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