by Elizabeth Burns
or Order by post
“We take what light we can to keep us through the night.”
Shortly before she died in 2015, Elizabeth Burns asked two poet-friends to put together the new collection of poems she would not have time to work on herself. Wayleave is proud to be able publish the result: Lightkeepers, edited by Gerrie Fellows and Jane Routh.
Admirers of Elizabeth’s writing will recognise Lightkeepers touches on those central themes Elizabeth pursued throughout the whole of her writing life, ‘making what was invisible, visible through words and images’. The poems range from delicately poised moments of home life through music and literature and art (particularly of and by women), to historical events and the natural world. Tender and precise, vigorous and lucid, Elizabeth’s writing moves confidently into new condensed forms and, ultimately, celebration.
“An exceptionally gifted writer” – The Scotsman
“Elizabeth Burns’ work deserves to be read, celebrated and remembered for the intensity of its thought and feeling and its spirituality, which in her later work becomes visionary. She is an exceptional poet.” – Myra Schneider
“The overriding sense I have of these poems is as givers and bringers of light … something of her spirit is contained in what she has created.” – Richie McCaffery on Clay
“Burns lets her language make connections, lightly and with a sure touch; she delights in movement, the merging of the real and the spiritual, and the visible containing the invisible.” D A Prince, The North
“…a fine, meticulously unfussy poet of crystal-clear perceptiveness.” Glyn Pursglove, Acumen
“Her last poems are brimful of her characteristically scrupulous compressed lyric composure. In every line she discerns where the spirit visits and is welcomed into ordinary places, a recovery room, a kitchen, an old cupboard.” Penelope Shuttle
Designed and typeset by Gerry Cambridge with a cover image by Elizabeth’s friend Jane Rushton, Wayleave has published Lightkeepers with a special
thread – sewn binding on Munken 100gsm paper with coloured endpapers.
Listening to Bach’s B Minor Mass in the kitchen
Finally, I’m done with the phone calls and everything else
and when I switch on the radio it feels like lying in salt water –
all I need to do is breathe: Bach will keep me afloat.
I’m mixing yeast into flour, making rolls for my daughter’s
birthday breakfast in the morning, kneading and kneading
the dough then setting it to rise; arranging in a glass
the last of the tiny pink roses with a sprig of green,
finding the blue candles and ironing the tablecloth,
the one my granny embroidered, sweeping the floor,
thinking about the hot August night of the birth,
and about the people we met on Westray last week,
and the presents I still need to wrap, and Bach himself
who is like a mountain covered in wildflowers,
and the singers in the Albert Hall who, the conductor says,
get close to godliness through this performance;
and I’m wondering, as all those voices fill my kitchen
with the Mass, if this is what he means: the sense
of time and place dissolving, so what divides us
from the past and elsewhere, and from each other,
falls away, and everything’s connected and we are all
drops of water in this enormous breaking wave.