Praise for BOX:
Let’s just get this part out of the way, Sue D. Burton’s Box is a brilliant, imperative, masterful collection. I envy this book; I covet and adore it. It is a book of the body and the soul, of the body as a trap for the soul, and the box—from the magician’s box, where the body is sawn in half, to the coffin—as a trap for the (female) body. It is a book of mirth and snark—with all-caps titles like “WHY I’M NOT COMING TO MY FUNERAL,” “MY NARRATIVE BENT IS BENT ON TELLING A STORY,” and “OVER AT THE SHIVA PIANO LOUNGE THE WOMAN WHO WAS SAWN IN HALF IS DRINKING A HIPSTER VARIANT (GREEN CHARTREUSE AND GIN) OF LYDIA E. PINKHAM’S 1876 ORIGINAL VEGETABLE COMPOUND”—and deadly serious intent. If the box is its defining metaphor, and the sawed-in-half-woman its central archetype, then its thematic axis is abortion, legal, illegal, botched, and died-for. Burton’s source material is the dovetailing of the holy quartet: public history, political history, family history, and apparently personal history. But this is poetry, not polemic. Its bottom line is the possibility of language within and beyond the borders of its ideas. Along with being badass and defiant and imaginative as hell, the book is formally-astute and deeply literary. There is a villanelle. There are sonnets, including a prose sonnet sequence in which each poem is shaped like—you guessed it—a box. And there is Hopkins, Dickinson, Marianne Moore, and Adrienne Rich canoodling in the same collection with a girl named Ruby, a sprite, “dressed like a man dressed like a goat…down there in the dark like Nijinsky’s faun, in a cream-colored body suit, little goat horns that nobody could see, bobby-pinned in hair that nobody could see, red-streaked and kinked.” It’s all here—story, song, and figuration, insurgence, sorrow, and love. “Once a woman sawn in half, always./Though it’s all in the eye—yours—the beholder,” she writes. I beheld. I urge you, too, to behold.
—–Diane Seuss, judge for the Two Sylvias Press Poetry Prize and author of Four-Legged Girl
According to her poems, and I don’t doubt it in the least, Sue Burton has a sign saying Don’t bore God on her study wall. Not a problem—God could not possibly be bored by these intrepid poems, which range broadly across experience, by turn worldly, spiritually plaintive, self-interrogating and wry. All are written with an acute, spiritual practicality, and a fierce sense of the mortal predicament.
—–Tony Hoagland, author of Recent Changes in the Vernacular
Sue Burton’s Box is a book we need: brave, bold, inventive, magical. Deftly braiding personal and political, social history and contemporary concerns, the factual and the fantastical, Box illuminates what it means to be she who is sawn in half, and she who steps out of that box to confront the mayhem where indeed, “ some fanatic is packing a gun.” Along with Burton’s keen ear for the music and muscle of the poem, there’s tenderness, passion, transcendence, humor, and dead-on serious intent in Box. Burton takes us from “the abortionist shopping for groceries, to the woman being sawn in half, to Great Aunt Nettie dying at the hands of a back-alley abortionist. As Burton writes, “the Magic of course, I always say, is not/in being sawn in half, but in rebirth/ Climbing back onstage night after night…” These poems show us that magic of rebirth, of climbing back on stage here in “ America, in fine fettle/while the fields burn.” At the end of “A Matter of the Soul” Burton, “Do I dare write this poem?” Thankfully yes, she did write the poem—these poems, this brilliant new book.
—–Carol Potter, author of Some Slow Bees
Sue Burton’s moving, riveting Box is a tour de force of documenting, conjuring, voicing. Women across centuries linked by history, abortion, violence, dubious magic and encounters with the soul, are evoked with knife-perfect language and inventive poetic strategies that hold the reader to the crucial task of witnessing. An unforgettable book.
—–Robin Behn, author of Quarry Cross
- Two Sylvias Press Bookstore
- Local Bookstores: The Flying Pig Bookstore, Shelburne, Vermont; Phoenix Books, Burlington, Vermont