Too Young To Forget - Philip Burton

Philip Burton’s collection is full of gems. His voice, while completely individual is a very English one, speaking  a common sense colloquial language that is nevertheless  both magical and dream like, touched both with history and experience.

The range of mood and subject matter within the collection is broad, ranging from the casual wit of  Ode To Sheep to the beautifully layered and resonant title poem. In the compass of a short review it might be useful to consider just these two poems alone, ,but as representative of the whole rather than as notable highlights.

Ode to Sheep is a fine piece of light verse, an ironic appreciation of these familiar beasts, whimsically imagining, with humour reminiscent of Terry Pratchett, the unsuspected  complexity of their inner lives.

Too young To Forget  makes use of an oblique approach to the horrors of the Western, while charting the gulf between innocence and experience. The image of the memorial poppy enables an exploration of its resonances both for the elderly woman and for the child on whom she is pinning it. It is the child’s voice that predominates, as he tries to confine the antique horror within  the narrow limits of his own experience. 

This child’s innocence is shared by the poet, as he perhaps remembers a moment of autobiography. His description of the poppy is trenchant and brutal:


Red for blood, black where the bullet’s in


The gulf between the protagonists is measured by the child’s question:  


Why would I want a bullet hole reminding

her of death? I hadn’t had my living yet.


Philip Burton is an accomplished and mature artist. None of the pieces in this collection is less than satisfying. Each reader will no doubt find his or her own way through this excellent collection.


Alec Bell

Note: Ariadne's Thread published poems from Philip Burton in issue 3

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