Ruin, Blossom

Ruin, Blossom


A remarkable new collection exploring ageing, mortality and environmental destruction - from our finest Scottish lyric poet


'By far the best British poet alive' SPECTATOR

'A master of language' HILARY MANTEL

In this powerful, moving new book, John Burnside takes his cue from Schiller, who recognised that, as one thing fades, so another flourishes: everywhere and always, in matters great and small, new life blossoms amongst the ruins.

Here, in poems that explore ageing, mortality, environmental destruction and mental illness, Burnside not only mourns what is lost in passing, but also celebrates the new, and sometimes unexpected, forms that emerge from such losses. An elegy for a dead lover ends with a quiet recognition of everyday beauty – first sun streaming through the trees … a skylark in the near field, flush with song – as the speaker emerges from lockdown after a long illness.

Throughout, the poet attends to the quality of grace – numinous, exquisite, fleeting as an angel’s wing – and the broken tryst between humankind and its spiritual and animal elements, even with itself: the gaunt deer on the roads/like refugees. He acknowledges the inevitability of the fading towards death, but still finds chimes of light in the darkness – insisting that, here and now, even in decline, the world, when given its due attention, is all Annunciation.


  • For my money, John Burnside is by far the best British poet alive

About the author

John Burnside

Amongst the most acclaimed writers of his generation, John Burnside has just been awarded the David Cohen Prize for a lifetime’s achievement in literature. His novels, short stories, poetry and memoirs have won numerous other awards, including the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the Whitbread Poetry Award, the Petrarca Prize and the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year. In 2011 Black Cat Bone won both the Forward and the T.S. Eliot Prizes for poetry. His most recent books are The Music of Time: Poetry in the Twentieth Century and Aurochs and Auks: Essays on Mortality and Extinction. He is a professor in the School of English at St Andrews University.
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