Mark Burnhope’s The Snowboy

  
 
 
Mark Burnhope was born in 1982. He studied at London School of Theology before completing an MA in Creative Writing at Brunel University. His poems and reviews have appeared in a variety of print and online publications. He currently lives and writes in Bournemouth, with his partner, four stepchildren, two geckos and a greyhound. The Snowboy (Salt Publishing, 2011) is his first book of poetry. 
 
  
 
 

  
 
 
“Mark Burnhope’s poems present a generous but moral quizzing of the world. Peering out over disability, faith and the host of prejudices that spring from such ground, they negotiate a path through lyricism and music, didacticism and narrative, comedy and confession, slang and slur in their search for a voice with which to speak. They visit town and sea, husband and wife and monuments to grief built of snow, steel, stone. They take us to a hydrotherapy session, a talking tree and an outcast crew including Pinocchio, Queequeg and Quasimodo. But at their heart, there is great warmth. Burnhope asks uncomfortable questions of the rhyme or reason for loss and healing, even as he challenges received perceptions of disabled life with wit, verve and an inclusive imagination.”
 
 
 
 
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“Mark Burnhope’s work is concerned with the physical – how a town is a physical place, how we live in a world of machines, our bodies among them. Many of the poems address disability, not only in the narrow sense our culture understands it but also in the wider sense that our physicality acts as a pathetic curb on the life of the spirit. The poems (which are machines themselves, we’ve been told) shake with the joy and frustration of living.”
 
– Tony Williams
 
 
 
“Imagine Zaccheus turning tables at the Internet Café, Paul turning back into Saul, confuse dying with flying, imagine a wheelchair recast in a pastoral landscape. Burnhope speaks movingly of human weakness and physical frailty, of strength and lightness of spirit.”
 
– Helen Ivory
 
 
 
“This debut pamphlet introduces a serious and playful, tender and ironic, strong and coherent new voice. A definite talent to watch.”
 
– Andrew Philip
 
 
 
 
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To My Familiar, Queequeg
 
 
I too am tattooed.
I too tap away
nightly at an idol.
 
Show me a sailor who
hasn’t savaged himself
and I will anchor a cyclone.
 
Our ink speaks
in skin: spins tales
of speared fins;
 
sirens found by fingering
tracks of sultry song
and then defiled.
 
The world turns
over like a novel
sex act requires
 
of a woman. I often
trail the geography
of the tethered body.
 
Once, I woke to find
your tentacles tightly
wrapped around me.
 
I wished to be tangled
safe, like Ishmael
finding in you his wife.
 
I wanted to compare
tattoos, remove tops
and trousers, and trace;
 
laugh at lines
blown out from excess
force by the hand, and time,
 
designs that lighten, slowly,
like flints in the sea.
For a while, Quee, we’d find
 
a world where the whale
is not white or dreadful. It’s
a pale vessel, drifting, singing.
 
 
 
 
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To My Best-kept, Quasimodo
     
          ‘When you’re standing by the roadside
          and it’s a long way to go, I’ll carry you’
                                           — The Levellers, ‘Carry Me’
 
 
Like you, I have one eye
which is good, my other
a glossy, pussed growth,
a tumour. I would pluck it out,
say, I have sinned, Father—
seen far-and-away
the best of Esmeralda
through blue, stained-
glass panes: her sleight
of foot, bangled wrist,
Notre-Dame de Paris drowning
under her deft Paparuda.
But my better eye has seen us,
cliché cripple and Romani
gypsy, run to escape the flash-
storm of rain and paparazzi
curiosity forward-slash greed—
and so many spine-twisting stairs!—
to roost in my stone belfry:
feel the pull, hear the toll
whose light spell whispers
in the ear of a seed, makes
straight once-wasted bone.
 
 
 
 
from The Snowboy (Salt Publishing, 2011).
 
Order The Snowboy.
 
Visit Mark’s blog, Naming the Beasts.
 
 
 
 
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