Wednesday, May 24, 2023

A farewell memory for poet Andrew Burke

 By Tracy Ryan

Andrew Burke (left) in 2008, with Tracy & John


in memory of Andrew Burke



Frank: you were always that.


I’ll even admit things treasured but

never shared: the way my late ex-

husband nicknamed you Balzac

and it stuck till I almost said it

to your face, not because

you were prolific, though you were,

but for the half-walrus moustache

you had back then, & the nineteenth-

century boho longhair look,

though it was poetry, not prose, for you.


Now: the day I think we first really met:

Three teetotal poets out on a fortnight’s

well-paid country tour of schools, dodging

teacher happy-hours, though you’d

always sit over lemonade in a pub,

letting the dark side down,

trashing the writerly reputation.


Collecting me at Midland station, you

laughingly noted your then-wife had

asked around about us beforehand

(me & E.)

been reassured I was pregnant

E. was over sixty —

let’s not even gloss it.


But it was never like that.


On the wild drive through the Mid-West you played

track after track from your full set of The Poet Speaks,

E. upset & sullen in the back seat saying turn it down,

Plath is just not poetry; me, not long turned twenty-six,

wanting those poems blaring on repeat. Yee-ha.


You telling me off for over-and-over loud

Sinéad O’Connor on the hotel jukebox,

rooms damp and the tea-kettle full of ants,

asking nonetheless to read the MS

of my first book, and I let you, frail self

you slashed through with that rhythmic biro

till I heard jazz not mine, & arrogant, took on none of it.


But what I did learn from you: it mattered —

the way you wrote all detail, each day of the journey,

into your poetry, reprocessed every minute,

poems a mode of living,


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