Ovid at Fifteen
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.” If Bursk’s ordinary yet mythic heroes hold back, they do so not out of cowardice but because they remember what happened to Icarus. And so they watch, and dream, and feel, and thus “make a living / out of aching . . .” The greatness of this book lies in its immortalizing that ache, that delicious pain.
“In Ovid at Fifteen, Christopher Bursk returns to myth again and again, finding it transformed each time and then allowing it to transform us. Like Ovid before him, he examines transformation in particular, and in his hands it becomes a metaphor for growing, aging, changing . . . In Ovid at Fifteen, Bursk does walk familiar grounds, but in walking them we discover along with him that those grounds are never the way we’d remembered them, that even the common things that haunt them ‘sparrows, blue jays, dragonflies’ are in constant flux and still have the capacity to delight and move.”
—Maia McAleavey, Poet Lore
“What poem after poem in Ovid at Fifteen presents is a delicious and delirium-fraught sense of being overwhelmed by having a body capable of pleasures so intense they beg comparison with Whitman’s lines in ‘Song of Myself’ where he says, ‘breathe the fragrance myself and know it and likeit;/ The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.’. . . Bursk’s persona in Ovid at Fifteen does succumb to the intoxication. He suggests through the narratives that he repeatedly flirted with answering the question of whether he would pay the ultimate price to get the whole experience of life with a resounding Yes.”
—Bill Tremblay, American Book Review, May-June 2004
Christopher Bursk, recipient of NEA, Guggenheim, and Pew fellowships, is professor of English at Bucks County Community College in Pennsylvania. He is the author of a number of collections, including Cell Count, Ovid at Fifteen, and The Improbable Swervings of Atoms, winner of the 2004 Donald Hall Prize in Poetry. He resides in Langhorne Manor, PA.