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    April 23, 1943 - June 21, 2021

  • Press and Reviews

    "A multiple award–winning poet for many decades, Bursk devotes much of his collection to ironic scrutiny of his chosen profession. Lacing his verse with searing wit and wreaking gleeful havoc with words and even individual letters, he is also adept at plunging a dagger squarely into the reader’s heart. Selected Poems opens with a kind of metameditation on a livelihood that, like the word market in The Phantom Tollbooth, puts a price on alliteration and simile, a business that offers crumbs for couplets. ..." read more

    "Of Christopher Bursk’s poetry, Joel Brouwer in The New York Times Book Review writes, “If you’re looking for skeptical poststructuralist experiments with language’s unstable elements, look elsewhere. Bursk has bottomless faith in language and its capacities to enlighten and delight.” Bursk’s Selected Poems reveal their author’s trust in those odd little bits of breath we call vowels and consonants to engage the world. Drawing on his experience as..." read more

    Poetry Daily

    "Herman Melville, Matthew Arnold, Sarah Orne Jewett, Dusty Rhodes, and Hoyt Wilhelm skinny-dip and pick up gondoliers and cut figure eights into the ice in Christopher Bursk's new collection. But the main cast of characters for these poems is the alphabet itself, "the first inhabitants of Arcadia, now homesick, curious exiles from Eden..."

    "Christopher Bursk's The First Inhabitants of Arcadia is a charming declaration of love for the English language--for words, letters (both their shapes and sounds), for prefixes, suffixes, parts of speech, punctuation. And with just enough pathos, current event and political dimension this collection, without really trying, serves as a humanistic counterpart to all the intellectual movements that ultimately seem hostile to, or at least fundamentally frustrated by, language. As a result, in an age when books and scholar-poets are rarely considered charming, it is a pleasure to read a poet who takes such pleasure in his medium. Bursk's work, like Debussy's tone-poem, reflects the composer's belief: "There is no theory, only pleasure..." read more

    "Bursk writes with verve and insight about child rearing, aging parents, sexuality, his literary heroes, the sexuality of his literary heroes. His poems have been published in literary journals and magazines including..." read more

  • Books

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    A collection of original poems by Christopher Bursk. The poems are inspired by Vergil's Aeneid and deal with modern issues of love, loss, family, masculinity, and more. Many of the epigraphs are in Latin from the Aeneid and some are translated into English.

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    Equal parts personal and mythical, Christopher Bursk speaks to fear and anger with candor to acknowledge their place alongside forgiveness and love in a life well lived and a life thoroughly examined.

    With a career already spanning decades, Christopher Bursk once again offers readers a glimpse into a life of moments captured in poems of comfort and of longing.

    This book is for those who search for moments alone, moments shared. For those who understand terror as an instrument of desire and of uncertainty.

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    "Choose one or the other, demands the light. / Choose both, says the dark.” ANSWER THE DOOR votes with the dark and its predilection for paradox and possibility. These poems invite readers into a world populated by imaginary friends, 1950s television icons, inmates at a county prison, lead pirates, plastic knights, a Sunday school class and Jesus’s secret lover, Quintilian and Oneal Moore, Salome and Deborah Kerr, Pixie the Dog and a cat named Schrödinger. The book is grounded in the resonant particulars of our daily lives and in the longings that inform them; it puts its faith in the mysteries inherent in these lives and in these longings. It trusts in language’s insatiable hungers. It argues for a justice inseparable from compassion and a beauty inextricable from loss. It is grateful for the hard work of propositions to keep us rooted in time and place.

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    A Car Stops And A Door Opens by Christopher Bursk gives us an insight into the anguish of longing, be it the longings of a troubled student or an elderly grandparent. It is poetry that is grounded in the particulars of both childhood and adulthood, and poetry for anyone who remembers what it’s like to be a kid and long for something you can’t put a name to. Not afraid to be naked and to laugh at this nakedness, it knows the sublime and the ridiculous and embraces both.

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    Unthrifty Loveliness by Christopher Bursk spares no resources in its tender depictions of male psyche; with wit, humor, and sharp emotional turns, these poems evoke felt experience at a deep level.

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    Joel Brouwer in The New York Times Book Review writes, “If you’re looking for skeptical poststructuralist experiments with language’s unstable elements, look elsewhere. Bursk has bottomless faith in language and its capacities to enlighten and delight.”

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    "They say you are judged by the company you keep. In this new collection, The Boy With One Wing, by Christopher Bursk, we are in exceptional company, even if that company is a collection of charismatic imaginary friends. These ingenious, interpretative poems honor the fragile sadness and indulgent joy of being an ageless child in an adult world. Bursk’s keen sense of timing and careful layering delicately touch upon the most honest, painful moments of living, allowing the reader "an opportunity to be braver than we dared believe we could.” Sometimes amusing, consistently authentic, and repeatedly poignant, this collection is a user’s guide for living; engaging the long-forgotten imagination and encouraging us to make amends with our own friendly foes." — Lorraine Henrie Lins

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    "Chris Bursk honors the human spirit without ignoring the destructive forces around us. What's more, he does it with language that never falters. How much I admire his intelligent, elegant, and deeply compassionate work." — Sy Safransky

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    “I fell in love with this book from the first page, and stayed in love right through. In this saga of boy-becoming-man, the poet shakes hands with Lucretius’ great work On the Nature of Things, while tracking the winding paths of family, sexuality, politics, history, television, philosophy, and so much more, in language relentlessly crisp yet achingly vulnerable.” — Alicia Suskin Ostriker

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    Winner of the 2002 Green Rose Prize, Christopher Bursk’s latest collection is not just profoundly honest; it is profoundly brave. These astonishing poems explore the space between sensuality, sexuality, and love—a landscape in which flawed human beings give birth to the flawed human beings who will one day take care of them, each generation screwing up even as it adds to the universal fund of beauty and compassion. Above all, Ovid at Fifteen reminds us what it means to feel the wonder of life too keenly—to want to throw yourself / off the cliff, plunge / into the very heart of color.

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    "Against this age of retribution, Christopher Bursk uses his powerful imagination to unlock the doors of the prison home. Look more closely, he seems to say, don't be afraid, and suddenly there's a human face on the other side of the bars, perhaps a jailhouse poet who 'likes to hear the couplet click shut like a door only he has keys for.' Though these narratives deal necessarily with heartache, their end is not despair, because Bursk draws his portraits with such restrained precision they illuminate for us all the nature of grief, awe, and hope. All the elements of of mature craft are here, including profound empathy..." -Betsy Sholl

    Additional Publications

    • The One True Religion (Quarterly Review of Literature, 1997),
    • The Way Water Rubs Stone (Word Works, 1989),
    • Places of Comfort, Places of Justice (San Jose Poetry Center Press, 1987),
    • Making Wings (State Street Press, 1983)
    • Little Harbor (Quarterly Review of Literature, 1982)
    • Standing Watch (Houghton-Mifflin, 1978


    • 2007 Paterson Poetry Prize from Passaic County Community College, NJ;
    • 2006 Milton Kessler Poetry Book Award from Binghamton University, NY;
    • 2004 49th Parallel Poetry Award; 2004 Donald Hall Prize from AWP;
    • 2003 Green Rose Prize from New Issues Poetry & Prose and Western Michigan University;
    • 1995 Pew Fellowship in the Arts;
    • 1987 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship;
    • 1984 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship;
    • 1983 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship.