Reviewed by J.W. Mark


43Burns_Suzanne_CovIs poetry for certainty? Might “gelato”, “sweet tea” and supper” gift us greater sense of self? Suzanne Burns will let us know with The Portland Poems. 

“I sharpened the edge of my lonely knife” she writes in ‘Window Shopping,” and parry it she will as, lavishing us with senses, we’re bouncing block to block. 

In The Portland Poems,Suzanne Burns becomes a tour guide of sorts. “Sometimes nights in Portland feel customized for pleasure” she writes in “The Last Supper.” And pleasure find we will a,s walking from place to place, we read of candies, teas and chocolates.

Her paradise is space transformed as reading page to page we find a richer kind of world.

“We are different the way everyone thinks they are different.” So plain, so clear; exactly what we get inside this loaded world of poems. 

Read her shame for “stabled colored sugars” as she “always feels like cheating” when she “bakes away from home.”

Is she perfect for a soul who needs some sense? For a “boy who wants to be a girl,” he’s lucky she’s aware. With poet’s eyes she reassures his confidence: 

I wanted to call you Candy because I know how it feels

needing lipstick to be complete.

She’s a helpful, caring ally, as later on, with “carmel and chocolate in our teeth” they meet “somewhere in the middle of the milky way.”

He’s a lucky one with Burns in charge.

The Portland Poems provides solution to a maze. In the end we’re all lucky with Burns in charge because she knows us best and knows her Portland’s poems. The structured world is broken down and built instead with life. So lushly does she show this world that from every nook and cranny comes a deeper sense of self. Here are people. Here are senses. Is her Portland a better, truer Portland? 

In “Kevin” its the minor things:

moments before the real cloth napkins

folded like origami birds

took flight before they burned.

And In “Having a Gelato with You” where

even your tongue, cold from scoops

of pistachio and spearmint, asks me

to mouth the words, “summer dress”

“You have tried many times to turn me into your own private ghost,” she writes. With “eyebrows cast to catalog,” it’s Burns who gives us sense. One reads inside The Portland Poems a solution to a puzzle. Here are poems of connecting souls and works of keen perspective. The poet’s work is on display as greater sense applied.

In The Portland Poems, Suzanne Burns reveals connections made in chaos. So personal and caring is her work that one becomes transfixed inside her knowing. This is poetry with purpose and perspective as applied. Here are poems from the street and poet’s work of living.



JW Mark is a poet living in Ohio. His work has appeared in numerous national and international publications. His current goals are to secure a publisher for a collection of his work. He is the author of a novel, entitled Artifice, as well as a book of poems entitled Patched Collective and can be contacted at jwmarkmail [at] or via his website 

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