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KGB Interview:  Kevin Clifford Burke

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“Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.” ~Plato

While we didn’t have a chance to meet up with Plato (can’t even find him on Facebook!), KGB was able to track down a true Renaissance man, Kevin Burke, a poet, lyrical artist, and musician, to discuss the release of his book of poems, The Bridge of Love, the rigors of self-publishing, and all things creative. 

KGB: You wear many hats in life - psychoanalyst, teacher, musician, singer, and poet. How do you balance all these interests, and how do you make sure none get neglected?

Kevin:  That’s a question I keep asking myself all the time. The short answer is I don’t know. The longer answer is that I try to stay focused on what I’m doing and try to do the best job possible as I am doing it. Unfortunately, I have an insufferable habit of accumulating things that I like and learn to do you might say reasonably well and then not letting them go! I do not recommend it. Case in point: we’ve had this grand piano in our house for so many years and I would be stupid not to gain some decent mastery over it, right? So I’ve gone back to studying the piano. When am I going to fit that one in, huh? Ha, ha, ha. The struggle is rather a glum one. But I really do enjoy creating and trying to create products of quality no matter what it is that I’m doing. You might say the process and end product of creating is its own reward whether it’s a poem, song, performing a song, or working with a patient in psychoanalysis or psychotherapy where you the therapist are a witness and helper trying to help someone understand their own conscious and unconscious pain and link it to the story of their life in order to help them be the person they truly are and was meant to be. Creation permeates everything we experience and do in life. The important thing is to learn how to tap into our creative gifts and build on them. It is indelibly linked to the process of giving birth to the Self.

KGB: Your last book of poems, Angry June Moon Says Hello, was a passionate exploration of your struggles to “come out” as a gay man.  What is the driving force behind The Bridge of Love?

Kevin:  Well, The Bridge of Love is about spiritual and personal transformation. These themes are reflected in many elements through my poems about nature, therapy, flying, my experience of searching for, finding and losing love and God.  Like Blake’s poem “The Tyger,” The Bridge of Love seeks to harnesses the power of creation and being together in moments of time that bear witness to the sacredness of creation’s purpose and being. The Bridge of Love is about being freed like the man freed in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

…in the power of floating as a dolphin smiles clamoring
Over and over again…
To feel the morning breeze come with the sun. (from The Light)

KGB: What role does music play in your poetry? 

Kevin:  Music in poetry is found in the sound, the rhythm and flow of the line. The music of the line allows the words to breathe and communicate the thought embedded in the line. Ultimately, one can hear this music when reciting the poetry aloud. I attribute this influence to Anglo Saxon poetry. In college I studied epic poems such as Beowulf and the like (didn’t so many of us?) and a professor mentor of mine along with my classmates would read these poems aloud in class. Then one day he came into class and recited Beowulf in the original language while playing a dulcimer. It made so much sense to me that these poems should have a lilting musical quality that came alive and connected with the soul when read aloud. When we allow our formation of words to take on a musical (perhaps chant-like) dimension, their power is unleashed.

KGB: You have chosen to self-publish your books. Do you have any advice for other poets or writers considering this option?

Yes, be prepared to devote the time and energy to every aspect. Once the book is written, the process in only partially complete. You have to ensure that how it is marketed fits your vision and then you have to try and make sure that it is marketed as much as possible. You have to go the extra mile to not only submit it to online channels but make sure that all your friends know about it along with everyone else you can think of that possibly might take an interest in it, i.e., book reviews, periodicals, libraries, etc. If and when it gets a good review, circulate that around too. Do readings, make it into a presentation, and send out postcard announcements.

KGB: It seems there has been a rebirth of interest in poetry in the past few years.  Why do you think this is so and where do you see the genre’s place in society in the coming years?

Kevin:  Poetry springs from a very primal part of human experience. It is a vocal tradition that is very ancient. Hip-hop is a testament to the power of the tradition of the word and bard (whether you like it or not). I think what you are seeing is a return to these roots, towards a spontaneity of the human experience in the formation the word and its power of utterance, to broadcast and take on many roles in life: not only our deepest of feelings but also sharing the many aspects of living in a community forum which I think is its source anyhow: romance, sex, news events, lifestyle, nature, all of human experience are subjects for poetry. Poetry in a shared communal setting read aloud is a very powerful experience. I think that it can be a healing and connecting experience. It gives a chance for the sharing of divergent personal witnessing and it allows for discussion and reflection. These things are not only powerful communications but serve to connect us to ourselves and each other. Perhaps we will see this occur more and more in the future: these forums for our personal and communal truths. I hope so. We are too isolated today and things are so expensive. Besides we (me too!) are so possession oriented. Words are free for all and meant to be sung and shared. I believe that the power of words and music help us speak to and examine higher, universal truths. These are meant to be shared and celebrated together with everyone nonjudgmentally and inclusively.

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Find Kevin’s poetry and music at www.KCliffordBurke.com