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My favorite poem "by far" in this collection is The Wind Swept, which starts, "The wind swept gently across the fields we'd walked together...."
And ends...well, you'll have to buy the book and read it! My favorite poem is a gut puncher.
Few of Burris' poems are purely secular, and this atheist enjoyed pretty much every piece here. We have been given some twelve sonnets, nineteen ballads, eleven rhymed-couplet pieces, three irregular, and nineteen free verse poems. I will cover each genre in Burris' order.
Sonnets first: in Upon a 12th Grade Reading Assignment: "They marched with torches to arrest the Light,/ But this alone was not the irony./ The band and captain also bound Him tight,/ Though He had only come to set them free." In the double sonnet Westminster Abbey we are reminded of the temple and the moneychangers, but in modern, personal terms: "Men talked and roamed as if within a store./ The register closed, then opened once more;/ The coins fell, they echoed, this plea was made:/ "A postcard for your trip?"..."
In For a Grandmother (about faith facing death) this: "And as we meet today to say goodbye,/ Another voice cries welcome from the sky."
Ballads next. In Not By Bread, these amazing images open the poem: "The hunger prowled with livid steps/ In stomach's empty tomb,/ And Satan prowled with watchful feet/ In desert's barren womb."
Town of Truthfulness is an incredible short, didactic, gut-punching ballad. No quotes here, buy the book and read this poem.
For personal (religious) experience, in I Lived as One we find this: "I lived as one who thinks that care/ Can add a moment to her life," and this: "I taught as one who does not learn,/ Whose eyes are shut against the light."
Loss does not escape Burris either; in the longer ballad Once We Whispered you will find this poignancy: "What dreams do you envision now/ Where lifeless you must lie?/ Long has lived the death that I/ Forbade you then to die." This is not trivial work.
God did not Make the World to Turn is actually a love poem with nice images: "If quiet shadows kiss the ground/ Then darling, why not we?/ Butterflies do dance around,/ And sunrise hugs the sea." Apparently religious poems can be sexy too.
In the astonishing poem In Memoriam the unnamed loss is keenly felt. "We like to think that death is finely scripted" but of course it is never fully expected.
The poem On Water reminds me of Archibald MacLeish's What Any Lover Learns. MacLeish uses water as a metaphor for a love/rejection situation; Burris uses water as an apparently meek, but in fact implacable force.
If you're looking for social commentary, turn to How Long and you will find it. If you're looking for a stunning religious / social commentary poem in four lines, read Shadow. No quotes to spoil the surprise here.
One favourite here is Imprint. When this atheist is captured by a religious poem, you know the poet has exerted significant power in her (or his) writing. Kudos for Burris here. Again in The Wind Swept (which is not religious at all) the final line is a punch in the gut. This is powerful writing put into verse so relaxed it almost looks careless, until it ambushes you.
Couplets next. Another favourite is A Poet's Pain, where we find this: "The words the poet quickly bleeds,/ The words the reader gladly reads,/ The words that cause the weak to swoon,/ Are self-inflicted pity wounds." Burris makes philosophy fun while mocking her own profession. Watch out for the surprise religious conclusion, which is so understated as to sneak into your thoughts stealthily, like an unbidden cat sneaking into a room.
In The Paths I am reminded of Stephen Crane's The Wayfarer : `The wayfarer,/ Perceiving the pathway to truth,/ Was struck with astonishment. / It was thickly grown with weeds'. Compare this to Burris: ""A better way by far," I said,/ "The path is clear and lies ahead."/ But as I lift my foot to go,/ I heard a voice..." Burris has put her personal spin on the theme of choosing a path.
Another fine love poem is Though Not Divine, a reality check on fantasy versus lasting relationships. Again, in Seeking a Sign, we have neatly exposed the difficulties of faith. Though our beliefs may differ, Burris gives us a keen insight into the not-simple to believe without personal evidence: "I want to watch the parting of the seas,/ The shadow moving back its ten degrees."
Sundry Forms: Contrast in Haiku is a neat metaphor which I won't spoil with a quote. Two haikus, six lines, subtly exploring the human condition.
Free Verse: interestingly, Burris here pays homage to Stephen Crane, whom I mentioned above (before I got to this section). I was wondering what would happen if this person chose to write in free verse, and in This We Value Now, I found out: "Strange, how this once polished tool/ should become an oil-less machine, /moving, if it moves at all,/ on the fumes of some disintegrating past," and the poem gets even better after that, a strong piece of social commentary.
Again in The Sparrow, Burris brings her world view into your mind and gut: "Dead./ And the only thought that ran into my head/ Was this: "Am I not worth more to You/ Than many sparrows?" I cannot properly set up this snippet without quoting the entire poem; read this one early.
In My Grace, Burris explores the inequality of human life on earth, asking questions we all, if at all aware of world hunger and drought, must have asked ourselves: am I well off because they are not?
In the title poem, A Greater Sound by Far, you will be seduced by Burris' views on racism, sacrifice, and freedom under God. I defy anyone to read this and remain unmoved.
If you're scrolling for the tiny carps, few they are. In a couple of places this person would have chosen to omit a small word for the sake of the rhythm. There must be at least one typo. Tiny carps indeed.
Reviewing a work of this size and quality can be challenging, in that I have to select enough material to give you, our audience, an insight into Burris' work - but there are simply too many fine poems to quote them all. Gray World is a fine example of a myth-like exploration of the human condition. My Mind is a Fine Machine is a unique and touching poem of personal loss. These two poems are definitely favourites in this work. If you're looking for social irony, turn to In God We Trust.
To Be a Modern Poet recapitulates Burris' earlier comments on the choice of self-publishing. My personal experience being equally dispiriting, still I was surprised at the careful cynicism of this poem, with which I agree, every word. It is possible to write sensationally and/or conventionally. Burris has chosen to write from a position of integrity and in a style of honest personal accuracy. It helps that she brings enormous talent to her task.
In Choice, Burris puts her opinion out by not mentioning it, just showing the results of other choices. Brutal. In Four Seasons we have a tour-de-force which reminds me of the old adage, `life is hard, then you die.' Burris does much better than this in this longer, four-part poem, for example this: "Your name I will always remember,/ It is the meaning I have forgotten."
How does Burris get five stars from this curmudgeon? My personal guidelines, when doing an `official' KBR review, are as follows: five stars means, roughly equal to best in genre. Rarely given. Four stars means, extremely good. Three stars means, definitely recommendable. I am a tough reviewer. I'm looking at sonnets, couplet rhymes, ballads, and free verse. Pretty much all roughly equal to best in genre. Five stars it is, and for those who enjoy (or like me, when it's very well done, go along with) a religious point of view, this is an exceptional work. Highly recommended.
Jim Bennett, Kindle Book Review Team member.
(Note: this reviewer received a free copy of this book for an independent review. He is not associated with the author or Amazon.)