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"About the Work" with Joshua Burton

In our "About the Work" series, Olga Mexina and Gbenga Adesina ask recent contributors for insight into their writing or for current sources of inspiration. Read Joshua Burton's poem "Giving Mary Grace" in SER Vol. 41.1.


“Giving Mary Grace” is a response poem from another poem I wrote with Mary Turner in it called “Grace & Separation.” In that poem, my attempt at giving her grace was to detail her death as a way to shed light on the horrors she endured during her last day. But upon further consideration, I came to see the potential harm this retelling of her death could cause. That reanimating caused Mary to relive her death through the poem. In “Giving Mary Grace,” my hope was to write her an apology poem. In this poem I would try to not center the horror around her death, but to try and give her the agency that was taken away from her in her last moments. The poem is a call and response, giving her room to speak, if she’s compelled to. I created this form as a way to emphasize more silence and spaces between lines. The space/bars are there to provide her more room for grace and peace.


JOSHUA BURTON is a poet and educator from Houston, Texas, and received his MFA in poetry from Syracuse University. His work can be found in Mississippi Review, Gulf Coast, The Rumpus, Conduit, TriQuarterly, Black Warrior Review, Grist, and Indiana Review. His first chapbook is currently out with Ethel and his debut poetry collection, Grace Engine, is out now with the University of Wisconsin Press.


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