Black Cat Bone

Black Cat Bone
John Burnside

“[Burnside] offers fabulist poems in lush, sometimes archaic language that’s meant to unsettle, even as it explores our most unsettled feelings.”Library Journal, starred review

“Burnside imbues his verse with the enchanted landscapes of his Scottish origins. . . . A magical, lyrical imagining that expertly blends universal desire and distinct locale.”Booklist

About the Book

Winner of both the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Forward Prize, Black Cat Bone is the first American publication of the poetry of John Burnside
Before the songs I sang there were the songs

they came from, patent shreds

of Babel, and the secret

Nineveh of back rooms in the dark.


Hour after hour

the night trains blundered through

from towns so far away and innocent

that everything I knew seemed fictional:


—from “Death Room Blues”
John Burnside’s Black Cat Bone is full of poems of thwarted love and disappointment, raw desire, the stalking beast. One sequence tells of an obsessive lover coming to grief in echoes of the old murder ballads, and another longer poem describes a hunter losing himself in the woods while pursuing an unknown and possibly unknowable quarry. Black Cat Bone introduces American readers to one of the best poets writing across the Atlantic.

Additional Reviews

“Ranks among the best of the decade.”Flavorwire

“The unique timbre created by Burnside’s ingenious prosody and obsessive imagination make for poetry of a very high order.”—The Rumpus

“Readers might just lose themselves in the language, as if under a predator’s ominous spell.”Publishers Weekly