All that remain to us of Sappho’s poems are fragments, some only a handful of words. Burn Lyrics incorporates these extant fragments into fully-fleshed poems in entirely contemporary voices, underscoring the flexibility of language and the ways we make compelling meanings out of our limited experiences of the world.
Burn Lyrics is an entirely original accomplishment. Benjamin Landry has reached into the past and its erasures, and brought into our time and place something new and strange. This collection transforms poetry into lived experience—full of atmosphere and physicality and mysterious specificity and music. Landry is a poet of uncommon gifts, one who has uncovered or discovered an entirely unexpected path for this art form. Burn Lyrics began as a remarkable urge, and it is now a spellbinding and transformative reading experience for the rest of us.
Laura Kasischke, author of Space, in Chains and The Infinitesimals
Benjamin Landry crafts an eco-lyric voice that celebrates everyday life yet remains “realistic about the future of the coastline.” Throughout Burn Lyrics, the speaker walks barefoot amongst family and strangers, wolves and goats, hummingbirds and pigeons, greenswards and dandelions, storms and fires. At the end of this journey, the old lyric self sheds its skin and the book becomes a new self to call and return the body home.
Craig Santos Perez, author of from unincorporated territory
You might think that a poem housing a fragment of sacred text—Sappho’s incandescent shards—would be a thing relatively inert in itself: at best a reliquary, at worst a golem. But Benjamin Landry splendidly shatters such preconceptions in this brilliant collection. The landscapes are so captivating, the perspectives so enticing, the emotional currents so swift and strong that you notice, only in passing, that a text you thought long dead has quickened, miraculously, into breathing, exuberant life.
Monica Youn, author of Ignatz and Blackacre
Benjamin Landry’s Burn Lyrics both fleshes out the mystery of and satisfies the desires awakened by Sappho’s fragments. We are sated at every turn. He is a master not only of the line but also of the heart. Landry offers a new lens through which to view the world; “it’s the sort of thing that colors your personal heaven,” and, as a reader, I’m left to wonder if this is possible, can the poem curate so much emotion in a world filled with so many distractions, but then I turn another page and realize, “Sometimes, it happens this way.”
A. Van Jordan, author of The Cineaste and M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A
Benjamin Landry is the author of the poetry collections Particle and Wave and An Ocean Away. He grew up in New England and taught English and creative writing for many years at secondary schools in the United States, Colombia and China, before teaching literature, creative writing and composition at the University of Michigan. He lives in Oberlin, Ohio, with his family—including the fiction writer Sara Schaff—and was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Creative Writing for the fall 2015 term at Oberlin College. His interests include modernism, film, space, memory, visual literacy, dance, fiction and alternative forms. In addition to publishing his poetry widely in journals such as The Kenyon Review and The New Yorker, he also writes reviews and criticism. Read more about the author at benjaminlandry.wordpress.com.