Cover art by Jane Burn
Date: 11th November 2021
Extent: 72 pp
Jane Burn’s new poetry collection Be Feared is a captivating reclamation of self, sisterhood and love, encountering everything from the Snow Queen and the morning song of chainsaws to myths, monsters, plagues and infernos. Acknowledging fear, this book embraces discovery, moving from ‘beware!’ and ‘bereft’ towards a becoming – a process of translation and transformation, of finding a voice radiant with both curses and psalms.
Rebellious, bloody, and encroached upon by violence, Burn’s poetry examines survival, abuse and healing. Intensely imaginative, these incantatory poems rework fairy tale and folklore, invoke a divine carnival of sexuality and wild nature, and hold up enchanted mirrors to the everyday truths of being a working-class autistic woman, daring to become, claiming her own magnificent, unstoppable fluency and spell-making power.
About the cover:
"The cover art for Be Feared was painted specifically for this collection. It makes reference to the book’s themes - the heart for my own capacity to love, the bird for nature and concepts of freedom - also the bird looking towards the womb and sexual organs represents both sexuality and motherhood. I cover this region with a hand to represent uncertainty and fear. Gerda’s roses are there and the whole piece makes has both a folkloric feel and an iconographic feel (which also references the biblical feel of much of the book's language). The white light that passes through the figure's head is very much a reference to the poem 'Trepanation' (or what my life became when I let the ghouls out of my brain), the functioning of my own brain and the idea of thought and language passing constantly out of the mouth, or in reverse, though the mouth and out of the mind. It resembles also the speech bubble - should anyone want to know what she is saying, then please read the book, for that is where I have found my fluency. This is, I feel, an honest expression of my own neurodivergent art. Her expression is strange - inscrutable, discomfiting, not easily interpreted - such it is also with me." - Jane Burn
Praise for Be Feared:
“Be Feared is a kaleidoscopic re-visioning of the fairy tales and myths that both shape and shatter inside women’s lives and minds. Full of rich, evocative language, Jane Burn articulates what it is to be an autistic/neurodivergent person in a world that is at best indifferent and at worst dangerous for those that don’t quite fit in. These are visceral, haunting, haunted poems that are not afraid to explore both anger and tenderness, fury and vulnerability.” – Kim Moore
"What to say about Be Feared? I'm arrested first by its sheer delight in language. It is contagious, this delight, and the world becomes a richer, stranger place upon contact. These poems are bravura conjurings from a writer who understands intimately the magic of words in both their sacred and infernal aspects. To use English in this way is to have lived at the sharp end of it; these poems bare the scars of their stored experience with reverence and wonder. Their insights feel fought for, the stakes are high. Burn writes with a fierce, almost exultant, tenderness, offering her pyrotechnic prayers as charms against the bottomless, arbitrary cruelty of the world we've made. These are attentive poems, and in turn they command your attention. You give it gladly, stepping into a world that has all the woozy vividness of a medieval dream allegory, yet is still hauntingly familiar. Folklore, myth, and history meet here. The present and the past. The self and the other. Burn choreographs them all with as rare resistive energy; they feel like a form of fighting back, a joyous fight, a fight with the only weapons at the poet's disposal: inventiveness, wit, and love." - Fran Lock
“This book is extra-ordinary – in its truest sense. To read it is to lose yourself in the forest, to follow the poet a long, long way from the path. Exploring the consequences of autism and her recent diagnosis in a boundaryless blending of fairy tale and fact, Jane writes with a kind of desperate force: a tide drawing everything – especially language - into the expression of her spectacular vision. The result is huge, bewildering, wonderful. At times – ‘Get me from this turret’ – it reads a desperate fight to be understood; at others, a defiant embrace of difference – ‘I am not going to stick to the path, not/ when there is mystery in the wood’. Rarely is a book so committed to a poet’s truth – but when she states ‘I am no universe’, she is wrong. That’s exactly what she is. And so is this book. Be warned.“
– Clare Shaw
Jane Burn is a poet and illustrator based in the North East of England. She has won many awards, including the Silver Wyvern at the Poetry on the Lake Festival and first places in the Wirral, PENfro, Bailieborough and Wolverhampton Literary Festival Poetry Competitions. She is a working-class bisexual with a late diagnosis of Autism. Her poems have been published in many magazines and appeared in anthologies, including Writing Motherhood (Seren, 2017), #MeToo (Fairacre Press, 2018), The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry (2019), and The Anthology of Illness (The Emma Press, 2020). Her work has been nominated for the Forward and Pushcart Prizes. In 2019, she co-edited Witches, Warriors, Workers, a volume of contemporary women’s poetry and essays with Fran Lock for Culture Matters Press. Her illustrations have also been used as covers for many books. She lives with her family for eight months of the year in an off-grid wooden cottage as she cares deeply for nature and the environment. Poetry is her true love and the only place where she feels confident, fluent and able to express the unique way she sees the world.