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Cullen Bailey Burns

TJ Jarrett

Cullen Bailey Burns lives in Minneapolis and Sturgeon Lake, Minnesota.  Her first book, Paper Boat, was a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award in poetry. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including The Denver Quarterly, Rattle, The Laurel Review and Court Green. She is the recipient of a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Fellowship, the Neil Postman Award for Metaphor from Rattle, and has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She teaches English at Century College and keeps bees on her farm in Northern Minnesota.

Also by Cullen Bailey Burns:

Paper Boat (New Rivers Press)




$15.00 paper | 61 pages
ISBN: 978-1-936970-17-9
Publication Date: September 2013
Buy: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | ShopWMU | UPNE

A Green Rose book

This book, about desire and memory, about discerning what matters in our lives, is a gift for any reader. Cullen Bailey Burns, in partial narratives, in cloaked moments, writes about time's passage, the rules of desire, about mourning done privately, about the interior forces of grief, and also about a kind of willingness to claim and live inside new days, live inside change, and the burdens and blessings change brings.

            —Deborah Keenan

"Am smitten, I said, and the grass lay still"—in Cullen Bailey Burns’s second book, Slip, the farthest desire of poetry is felt in the utterance: as if the activity of saying could be transformative, whether apocalyptically or redemptively. Bailey Burns has the ability—the negative capability—to get out of the way of the making. The author’s ear and intuition allow us to understand the ear as intuition—"thistle better than nettle / anyhow"—and the poem, and the world, are free to keep opening.

            —Lisa Fishman

There's a delicate timbre to these poems, the haunting assurance of faint rhetorical patterns, the vibration of the elusive ordinary, the muted music of its transformation.

            —Stu Dybek

Praise for Paper Boat:

These are fine poems. They are open without a false word. They are personal but not narcissistic. You feel you the reader are being told something about your own life, too—something complex—hard—in which there is the longing and pleasure of clarity.

            —Grace Paley


Papal Vision Screening

Dilating the pope’s pupils,
affixing the corridor’s light,
he will see the way to God’s pure voice,
we hope. The pope’s heart weakens
and breath and a million prayers
pass through the empty cavern of his mouth
as he naps in his impressive chair.
Then the chalice, the ophthalmologist eyeing
the cataracts blue and milky like the world.


My mother lights candles for world peace
while the tippler, my father, lifts his cup.
My brother packs his suitcase singing sushi sushi sushi
and my sister, remember, is dead.
Here in Minnesota I shovel snow
and tape plastic over my windows.


But you know, the pope loves us anyway,
in spite of our land mines and effigies,
in spite of our tendency to bear wounds
badly, to trespass, to covet, to lie at night
next to the wrong loved one,
loves us and before he dies
means to touch the beads
of our backbones to his lips.