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Sweet to Burn

ISBN: 1-928589-23-5

By Beverly Burch

Review by: Moira Richards


The luscious cover art of Beverly Burchs Sweet to Burn (Birgit O'Connors, Red Canna with Water Drops) gives the reader her first clue to the richness of the poetry between the books covers. The second is the short prefatory piece to the poems that is written under the title, The Subject of This Story is Desire.

The entire collection narrates the story of two women who meet, fall in love, and make a family and life together. Sweet to Burn comprises seven groupings of poems, each introduced by a short piece of script-like scene setting. Each of these groups of poems then revolves around the different phases of their life-path that like all life-paths is neither uncomplicated nor easy. The poems are narrated alternately by the women, Alice and Meg, and sometimes by their daughter, Talia too. As you can see, I was very intrigued by the construction of this poetry book, and the poetry itself fits well into its frame.

The first poems are strongly narratorial, or perhaps it was just I who was swept along by this new love affair a want to read and read more about it, and would it last and what would happen after this small glitch or that betrayal. I also followed eagerly the enchanting growing into womanhood of the couples daughter. At sixteen she realizes that Botticelli's Venus, 

    poised at the lip of a glittery shell:

goddess of love, she's shaped like me.

                                                               (Teenager on the Half-Shell)


 and later,


       ... Now I know: my body's

a forever-hungry thing. Female, no cure in this life.


The last but one, section of the book is devoted to Alice's mourning of the death of her mother, and to the time the two spent together during the last days of her illness,


How slowly the body shuts down.


Working hard together, we spend two hours

      on a little warm cereal, a few pieces of orange, some tea.



But of course I was most enthralled by the love between Alice and Meg. Would reconciliation be possible after the relationship has endured so many problems, as Meg also wonders here,


          If she's truly spent her discontent, how do I

         wean myself from loving the cold? (Exposure) 

Perhaps a clue can be read from the delicious poem in which the fifty-something lovers, each of whom are perhaps a scarlet woman of a certain age, don for each others pleasure, silky crimson and ruby lingerie, and embark on a new phase of love,


   Through with the red stain on the sheet,

        well turn to red satin.                                                                   (A New Period of Red)

I loved this book for the way it combined a compelling story with so many sublime moments of poetry. Rather like life itself does too.

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