R.I.P John Burnside

My co-author Mary Modeen contacted me today. Her email included the following lines:

“My friend, the poet John Burnside just passed away. It seems like a year of many losses”.

It may seem odd, given the current slaughter being carried out in Ukraine and Gaza (among other places), to single out for mention the death of one man, albeit a respected poet. But John Burnside’s poem Out of Exile has long been important to me, both because it summons up the Scottish border towns I’ve so often driven though, alone or with my younger son and, perhaps equally importantly, because of how it speaks to my own childhood. It may also be that, in mourning what one particular person who has contributed a sense of depth or insight to our lives, we also remember something both of what it is to be part of the human community and honour those very real threads, however fragile, that link and enrich our disparate lives.