Ian Burnette

Chosen by Andrew McMillan as a winner of The New Poets Prize 2016/17.


Ian Burnette is from South Carolina. Her poems appear in Kenyon Review, The Forward Book of Poetry 2015, the Adroit Journal, The North, and elsewhere. In 2015, she was selected by Tracy K. Smith for inclusion in Best New Poets. She is Publicity Intern and an Associate at Kenyon Review.

These are poems infused with the spirit of the blues, with the American Midwest, with a friction that bristles between expansive journeys and the ending of things. Immensely readable and enjoyable poems that transported me somewhere else entirely. — Andrew McMillan

With an informed awareness of its own intertextuality – from American gunslingers and the Blues to the landscape of the Midwest – Wax wanders through the concrete and the abstract, language and idea, the patterned and the primordial. At once urgent and ecstatic, and always politically engaged, Burnette’s intricate collection is, above all, a celebration of the infinite ways that humans reform their world.


Nothing exists untethered. Wax is equal parts primordial and invented, literal and linguistic — the paste that holds the strings in place, linking one thing to another and constructing constellations that encode the world with all its sublimity and strangeness. - Ian Burnette, author.



I have no patience for the void, all talk and tinsel promises 

of clean slates and genius copy from the muse 

delivered by zigzag of lightning. I learned early: if by magic, then fake.

Nothing exists untethered. Not even islands,

mere hills beneath which canyons hollow and drown.

Faithful as retrievers, radio waves from the ’60s now return to Earth. 

The lab monster won’t wake until you say its father’s name aloud.

Once I wanted to be a famous magician. 

In Ms. Q’s homeroom the other kids watched 

as I charmed a dollar bill to float above my desk. How easily I had them,

egg-blank faces on all but Ms. Q, who glowed 

or else pretended to. Grown, I am aware this is mostly what people do

and so look always for the string

held by a drop of wax beneath the thumb, hung over-ear, 

then tacked to the face of the crumpled bill

which, as I cast my hand downward, would rise.

Titles by this author


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