The Small Mystery of Lapses
Winner of the Cleveland State University First Book Prize (2006)
In these spectacular first poems by Christopher Burawa, I begin to hallucinate the characters in a kind of pantomime that has in the past distinguished writers such as Jospeh Conrad; there is Geppetto's paste pot and the shiny foil of a local apocalypse, ghosts of Stalinists with spears of dried cod flaming up behind them on a pier in Iceland, and then the harlequins of a first-person narrative that crosses the river or doesn't. Melodious and irritable, aspiring and brooding, I mean to say, these are poems from one of the most brilliant first books of a new millenium.
In the richly detailed poems of Christopher Burawa's first collection, The Small Mystery of Lapses, the narrative inclination of a fabulist is the accelerant that fuels a remarkable and incandescent imagination. Burawa leads us deftly and confidently in his poems from the familiar to the strange without provoking estrangement. For in a Burawa poem we have no doubt that when "[m]oths wake up," they "mistake the blue milk in the buckets/ for starlight." The Small Mystery of Lapses marks the fresh and energetic appearance of a promising poet.
Christopher Burawa gives shape to the mysterious with images that are surprising and transformative: "As luck has it, / I'm sitting in the clover, staring at her / with all the eyes grown out of my loneliness." Burawa's voice so effortlessly interweaves experience and imagination that we do not feel like readers so much as lucky inhabitants of the world he creates. Here is the smell of earth, an acute sense of the landscapes we carry in us, the fragility of history, an alchemy of wonder and loss, "the bordering trees [waving] // like confirmed bachelors without curtains." By turns lyrical, meditative, slyly surreal, Burawa is a poet of astonishing presence and originality.
Beckian Fritz Goldberg