Joanne Burns was born in Sydney in 1945. A teacher since graduating from the University of Sydney in 1966, she has published ten collections of poetry, the most recent of which are blowing bubbles in the 7th lane (1988), on a clear day (1992), penelope’s knees (1996) and aerial photography (1999). footnotes of a hammock was released in 2004.
Joanne Burns has long been an exponent of the prose poem, which she favours for its lack of restriction, its “looser, seemingly more casual flow”. Although in many of the poems in this selection she makes use of conventional poetic line breaks, in ignoring or crossing the break in the line, they still convey a sense of what she calls “prosy breeziness”.
This appearance of being relaxed or cool (as in the title of one of her collections, blowing bubbles in the 7th lane) is important to the biting satirical effect Burns achieves in her poetry, for the satire is often directed against the absurd and intimidating posturing of those who are socially insecure or anxious about their power. The absurdity of their gestures is taken to surreal lengths – and with her keen sense of the pretensions and dislocations lurking in the latest technologies, she might be thought of as a post-modern or cyber-surrealist.
Urban landscapes and the denizens of the city feature prominently in her verse, and she has a zany, humorous, caustic view of life which is very appealing in its wit and vitality.