Tonight it is my pleasure and honour to launch Andrew Burke’s latest poetry collection, One Hour Seeds Another. This is yet another marvelous book in the list of Walleah Press’s titles and the second book of Andrew’s that Ralph has published in the space of two years. Both these collections are substantial, and along with the other eleven books to his credit, show Andrew’s impressive output as a poet.
I first came across Andrew’s work through the pages of Famous Reporter where I published a number of his haiku. It was wonderful to meet him at last when he visited Hobart last year. I invited him to speak to our women’s poetry gathering where his engaging manner and gift for yarning delighted and entertained us for the two hours he spent with us.
That conversational ease is apparent in his poetry – and rather than talking at length about the work I want to make just a few brief comments and allow time for you to hear Andrew read, as that is the best way for you to get a taste of the pleasures and treasures that await you in the pages of this book.
Andrew’s earlier collection, Under Cover of Lightness, could well apply to this new one, suggesting as it does a playful approach in the poet’s exploration of diverse subjects. The poems are infused with humour, irony and playfulness but they touch on weighty subjects such as loss, relationships, and the nature of being.
The poems also play with ideas, with language and with images, placing them in surprising combinations and juxtapositions that command the reader’s attention. The ordinary and the everyday take on a heightened significance. David Brooks, in his blurb on the back cover, says: ‘You could give him five ordinary things on a table top and he would show you just how to place them, to let in the pleasure and the wonder.’
There is music here, too, not only in the many references and allusions to musicians from jazz artists to Dylan to Cage and more, but also in the sounds and rhythms that flow naturally from the mind of a poet for whom music is akin to breathing.
An appreciation of Japanese forms -that use brevity, suggestiveness and clarity of imagery to powerfully evoke emotion and convey the poem’s intent - is another characteristic of Burke’s poetry. Like the poet, Issa, my favourite of the haiku poets, Burke pays attention to the small things – mosquitoes, a bee in a flowering thistle, ants going about their business. There are sections of haiku and renga interspersed with the longer poems, all laced with a freshness of seeing and a wry but gentle humour.
Andrew shares this appreciation of Japanese poetry with the Beat generation of poets, whose influence can also be seen in his work and to whom many of the poems allude or refer, giving a layered effect to the whole. One reference I particularly like is the twist to Gary Snyder’s observation on Buddha nature that Andrew renders as: ‘all creatures have Buddha-nature/ except bored boys.'
The poems in One Hour Seeds Another are conversations with poetic modes, with poets and musicians, with memory, friends and lovers, with language, with the world and nature and with ideas. It is a conversation you, as reader, will become engaged with and drawn into by the masterful way the poet scatters words as seeds that blossom into luminous images in the mind, and strike deep chords of recognition in the heart.