White Horses by Jo Burns (in full) in Poetry Ireland Review 128 Reviewed by Jaki McCarrick

There are also numerous references throughout the collection to horses. `Eclipse’ primarily explores the life, loves, and work of Pablo Picasso. My favourite of the poems here is `Guernica’, in which Burns gives voice to various characters in Picasso’s eponymous painting. Like much of the work in this section, `Guernica’ is full of short dramatic lines such as `War covered the sun’, and ‘They came on market day’. The enigmatic presence of the white horse in Picasso’s painting is beautifully described: ‘Paint can’t hold his aura, spirit as white pulse streams into shore, spindrifting.’

The final section, ‘Revelations’, contains a number of political poems. I enjoyed this section immensely. ‘Heart or Reason’ charts contemporary life in Germany, where Burns has lived for a number of years. In an obvious reference to Brexit and the current wave of nationalism / populism in the UK, its speaker insightfully declares: ‘It’s our duty to warn how nations are duped when uncertain. / We have been there but now it’s looking red, white and blue.’ Many of the poems here examine the recent well-publicised arrival of refugees and asylum seekers to Germany.

„Ever-present in Burns’s remarkable debut is an Ulster upbringing, never forgotten, informing travels across the globe and to the tops of mountains, as well as life in Germany“

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