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Christopher Bursk

Michael Burkard

Christopher Bursk, recipient of NEA, Guggenheim, and Pew fellowships, is professor of English at Bucks County Community College in Pennsylvania. He is the author of a number of collections, including Cell Count, Ovid at Fifteen, and The Improbable Swervings of Atoms, winner of the 2004 Donald Hall Prize in Poetry. He resides in Langhorne Manor, PA.

Also by Christopher Bursk



Ovid at Fifteen

Ovid at FifteenOvid at Fifteen

$14.00 paper | 83 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-930974-25-8
Publication Date: March 2003
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Winner of the 2002 Green Rose Prize

Christopher Bursk’s latest collection is not just profoundly honest; it is profoundly brave. These astonishing poems explore the space between sensuality, sexuality, and love—a landscape in which flawed human beings give birth to the flawed human beings who will one day take care of them, each generation screwing up even as it adds to the universal fund of beauty and compassion. Above all, Ovid at Fifteen reminds us what it means to feel the wonder of life too keenly—to “want to throw yourself / off the cliff, plunge / into the very heart of color.” If Bursk’s ordinary yet mythic heroes hold back, they do so not out of cowardice but because they remember what happened to Icarus. And so they watch, and dream, and feel, and thus “make a living / out of aching . . .” The greatness of this book lies in its immortalizing that ache, that delicious pain.

"In Ovid at Fifteen, Christopher Bursk returns to myth again and again, finding it transformed each time and then allowing it to transform us. Like Ovid before him, he examines transformation in particular, and in his hands it becomes a metaphor for growing, aging, changing . . . In Ovid at Fifteen, Bursk does walk familiar grounds, but in walking them we discover along with him that those grounds are never the way we'd remembered them, that even the common things that haunt them 'sparrows, blue jays, dragonflies' are in constant flux and still have the capacity to delight and move."
        —Maia McAleavey, Poet Lore

"What poem after poem in Ovid at Fifteen presents is a delicious and delirium-fraught sense of being overwhelmed by having a body capable of pleasures so intense they beg comparison with Whitman's lines in 'Song of Myself' where he says, 'breathe the fragrance myself and know it and likeit;/ The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.'. . . Bursk's persona in Ovid at Fifteen does succumb to the intoxication. He suggests through the narratives that he repeatedly flirted with answering the question of whether he would pay the ultimate price to get the whole experience of life with a resounding Yes."
        —Bill Tremblay, American Book Review, May-June 2004


You’re neither fish nor fowl

your mother likes to say,
                      meaning, You’re the age
            you don’t know
what you want. Neither boy
                      Nor man.
            Not male, not female.

You’re always bumping into walls,
                      doors, trees, people,
            as if your body’s just sprouted
wings, and the world’s more cramped
                      now. The feathers trail
            along the ground. No matter
how many baths or showers,
                      you can never get clean.
            In the mirror you lift
your arms and there’s nothing
                      attached to them.
            But when you dive off a rock
or pull yourself out of water—
                      what used to be
            second nature—you’re lifting
the whole pond with you, the trees
                      reflected there,
            all that weight stitched
to your shoulders, the itch,
                      the rank odor
            of rain dried into this fluttery
armor, an affliction of feathers
                      woven to you.
            Breathe. Can’t
breathe. Drown. Claw
                      at the sky. The air
            like water.
The water over your head.