The Soul Ajar by John Burnside

John Burnside

The Soul Ajar


If the most exhilarating moment in the making of a book comes at the start, when capricious fate allows us to believe that anything can happen, then the most daunting comes right at the end, when the final proof, checked and returned, goes into production and no further changes are permissible. That moment is now for my latest book, The Music of Time: Poetry in the Twentieth Century, a labour of five years that seemed promising for just as long as it remained fluid and alterable. Now, like a school metalwork project finally plunged into the quench tank, it is finished. My brain, on the other hand, hasn’t quite cooled yet. Ideas that I’d thought were set down in full continue to smoulder, which suggests that, at the very least, this book is only a snapshot of some larger process that I may never be done with. Which is fine, I tell myself; no writing project is ever wholly accomplished and this one was particularly slippery, being an attempt to bring together, or rather to see the continuum between, what Randall Jarrell called ‘the dailiness of life’ (that is, the close at hand, the familiar, the palpable) and Richard Eberhart’s

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