“Sidney Burris’s poems are at once learned and colloquial. . . . Wry and generous, easy and edgy, discursive yet richly textured by experience, Doing Lucretius walks its matters over a landscape that ranges from van Gogh and Degas to bourbon and the Delta.”—Wyatt Prunty
In Doing Lucretius, Sidney Burris crosses a sensibility shaped by a classical education with a contemporary culture that finds such an education increasingly remote and forbidding. Molding his artistry and buttressing his response to modern society with the literature of the ancient world, Burris displays in his work an unabashed reverence for the various traditions—literary, cultural, familial—that guide him, but maintains that these conventions must now and again be interrogated and overthrown.
The poems trace several themes through the poet’s boyhood to the threshold of his middle age: flight, escapism, distance, cultural displacement—themes that are strained by the counterpressures of literary, political, and artistic impulses. The desire for flight and its attendant concerns are foremost among these motifs—flight to the sea, to love in all its varied and alluring forms, even to dying in its many manifestations. With these modes of motion comes an obsession with historical characters who have had their own travails resolved by flight, both psychological and actual: Achilles, Ulysses, Circe, and above all Lucretius, Virgil, and Dante, the perennial sustainers.
Blending southern narrative language with the melodic intensity of the impassioned lyric voices of the classical world, Doing Lucretius is a profound and deeply satisfying collection.
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