Matthew Burns

Award-winning Local Writer, Matthew Burns, Publishes Poetry Collection

Matthew Burns, award-winning writer and local professor will soon see his collection of poetry in print with the publication of Imagine the Glacier. Published by Finishing Line Press and to be released on March 5th, Imagine the Glacier explores the transience of nature – both human and elemental – capturing images of beauty, brutality, and intimacy within multiple environments. This debut collection includes James Hearst Poetry Prize winner, “Rhubarb” as well as Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations. The cover of the book features the artwork of local sign painter and scenic artist, Michael Conlin whose bluebirds can be seen on the Broadway Parking Garage in Albany.

In its exploration of the worlds we inhabit, Imagine the Glacier also draws on the work of other writers, artists, and musicians as a quiet background resonance and emotional jumping-off point. “John Prine” uses the late singer-songwriter’s bittersweet holiday lament, “Christmas in Prison,” as a foil for a speaker’s guilt and gratitude, while “What We Talk About When We Talk About Weather” inverts the Raymond Carver short story that inspires the title to unearth a wistful longing that lies just below the banal shibboleths of a long-distance phone call. Through a precise and compassionate assessment of the uncertainties in our environments—whether a kitchen, trainyard, or forest—Burns shows us how to embrace the interconnections of both solace and discord within and move forward with a quiet appreciation of it all.

Maintenance is the expense no one ever estimates correctly, and that margin of error, of uncertainty is the real cost, the one Matthew Burns assesses with such precision in Imagine the Glacier. None of the losses (a chicken named Ginger gone to a hawk’s dinner, the absence at the heart of a John Prine song) are too small to record; none of the gains (a wife’s new dress considered in light of what in the world it can’t solve, the relief of a late matinee with The Royal Tenenbaums diminishing into dusk) sufficient to offset the atrophy of old towns, the calamity of wildfire, the darkness surrounding a train’s headlight on a curve. But to see this all clearly (the perennially unsold vans in a used car lot, the bright slivers of metal left in a hand from sharpening a shovel) is to experience what these poems offer so generously and scrupulously, a world as immediately present as it is imperiled.

Jordan Smith, author of Little Black Train among others

Born and raised in upstate New York, Matthew Burns, an associate professor at SUNY Cobleskill, teaches creative writing and literature courses. He has been published in both national and international journals including Posit, Camas, RHINO, The Lake, Paterson Literary Review, North American Review, among others. Beyond creative work, Burns has served as editor of Harpur Palate, Heron Tree, and a special graffiti-themed issue of Rhizomes: Culture Studies in Emerging Knowledge. His scholarly work often focuses on the less-than-common and has included papers and courses on subjects as varied as Graffiti Linguistics, 20th-Century Music Subcultures, Hobos and Contemporary Transience, and Working-Class Literature.

Steeped in the everyday violence of the wild that is and is not human, Imagine the Glacier argues that even the devastations of our age can yield to intimacies with the lover and the other, including the non-human, such as animals and the elements, weather patterns and the seasons. In an age of rapid urbanization when one place seems interchangeable with another, Burns casts a compassionate, granular gaze on human-built and natural environments, capturing their interconnections and textures in gorgeous, vividly rendered poems. Embracing the warp and weft of deep time and personal memory, “Imagine the Glacier” teaches us how to live—“how to go home”— in the Anthropocene:  “Look/ at the rivers in their swell; they have nothing/ against you; they do not care; not about the time/ in ’89, in January, when you almost drowned,/ setting old tires on fire and sliding them/ across the ice like cheap comets…”

Sarah Giragosian, author of The Death Spiral and Queer Fish

You can order Imagine the Glacier from Finishing Line Press for just $19.99.