The Personhood Project Episode 15: Joshua Burton
This month, poet Joshua Burton joins our host Aaron Tyler Hand to discuss his debut collection of poetry, Grace Engine, as well as his chapbook Fracture Anthology. In conversation, they bring up Terrance Hayes, the usefulness of exploring Juxtaposition, and the grace found within the tension. The two also discuss writing about family in an honest yet ethical way. Most importantly, they discuss how writing about family or even writing in general allows one to get closer to finding their own truth.
Poems for me are a kind of processing machine... they're a way to peel back layers and slowly process trauma.
Closed My Cell In to Free My Thoughts
I wake up to concrete
walls and locked metal doors
on the outside of this
case lies my mistakes
waiting to gnaw at
I leave for visits or recreation
but quickly return
to the solitude
because the thoughts of
freedom and drugs is
just too much for me
Being caged up is my new high
Here I can’t change anything but the TV
Leaving the thought of
relapsing as an impossible
I love the impossible
I yearn for sober
productive life beyond my
safe haven cage
I take a pick ax to my thoughts
Trying to find the hidden
key to the set of handcuffs
this life has on me
Then one day while playing chess
I wake up from my
In this moment in this
cage I finally feel free
I take the key of happiness
and unlock the handcuffs
that have shackled me
for so many years.
And for so many years
I thought those handcuffs were drugs
Only this day did I
realize they were
Thoughts of sadness
Thoughts of society
Thoughts of anger
wanting to explode
All handcuffing me
to any drug that
would turn my
I think blood is watered down, in this limited world alone with no one around. When I was lost only friends stepped up to the mound. How can we be the same? You never been in correctional facilities where the insane visualize defeat. How we the same? You might be mesmerized, know I handle adversity. My insecurities is what compels me to repeat certain actions that fall into negative patterns. But I never think I’m better than. So don’t o-m-i-t. I’m not gon let that go over your head, that means fail, forget, neglect, other individuals. Might be the same but I’m not like the rest.
Trust the Process!! This is a challenging task. Possibly
through hard times your gifts shows
the most. Motivated by limited
space seems to inspire you. Nobody
cares about your emotional state.
Exploit your ego and expand your priority.
Never be a follower. Ask yourself what
opportunities are available. Start editing
your friends. Surely this will pay off in
the end. Encourage yourself to go that extra
mile. As challenging as this must seem, trust
Who Are You?
Convicted felon, liar, cheater, and a drug addict.
Most of my life I’ve been a coward.
The choices in life haven’t always been the greatest
I was a very insecure young boy and man
It took a lot of soul searching, sacrifice, blood, sweat, and tears
For me to be able to see myself for who and what I truly am
From a Warrior to a King
Are you willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for your Queen?
I’m asking, are you willing to not only sacrifice your body
but have a clear, honorable mind, body, spiritual connection
and intention with the woman you choose to call your Queen.
Of course, you will fight for her right? But will you be her
emotional stability and her back?
Warrior– are you ready to stand guard and sacrifice your
life for this woman, your Queen? Will you fight for her honor
everyday of your life? Are you willing to be at her service
and her side as a Warrior should?
Will you swear never to lie, cheat, or dishonor her and
mean it with your life? If you are not willing to
stand up– stand down / step down so
another Warrior can have her and do what is right.
The New The True
Schizophrenic language God Rapture and Spaceships
Overalls in black is Christ, a child’s hidden glow
A profit kids a dog a cat a turtle my wife’s gold
How do I include myself my love is ancient old
An honest poem saying some things expressed as strange feelings
Unafraid to be afraid receiving life’s beatings
They didn’t knock unjust inside my killer kid bedroom
A bearded plan the witch is blind non flying on her broom
For if you’re close and didn’t know what it was before
I hate that I’m the chosen one who knows the fuckin score
Apologies if you’re confused frustrated used or bored
But you belong to me you see and truly are adored
I hear good luck its me its you go home open the door
I am the key that must be used enriching all the poor
You fell to rise bring their demise the fires in your eyes
Darkness abyss break down the rich they are pathetic flies
Time travel camp slingshot the light the king is in disguise
Stay close to me my perfect bride the fallen must arise
The light and dark can co-exist accept receive the prize
Embrace new life make love all night my heart is deep inside
Read comic books and jam good shit yo kid it’s a surprise
New earth future will be so great you’ll think that it’s a lie
But wait the God who is true and just shall provide for life
It’s time my son true love has won receive and bless your life.
O.K. Ok so like the dude made a boat
and made room for all types
Had a wife and love Ham
and was used as a plan
to recycle a past
so a culture could last
along with rest
buy new words by the best
Dust clay filth and a home
Going back to the first
without hearing beyond every word of the song
In the prime of your life
for 10 bucks and a wife
and a marvelous gift
to make best of the strife
one may rain down a flood
or take advantage of blood
But you’d rather make
an awesome snowman of mud
or maybe go for a swim
then take a shower in sin
preferring that you lose
so the rest can now win
Ok so like I’m the dude who’s got the boat
Now get in or you’ll sink
At its core, the poem Grace Division is a confessional poem where the speaker in Burton’s poem recounts a time that they ended up in a mental hospital and all of the steps and missteps in life that led them to that point. The turning point in this poem is the line “But those mistakes are not gods”. Here the speaker realized that the past mistakes are not what defines him, thus allowing him to move on from them. Think of some past mistakes or missteps that might have led to where you are today, write a poem that acknowledges them so that they don’t become what defines you.
In Elegy for Threats with Grace, Joshua Burton opens up about his feelings towards himself as well as his closest family and friends. The poem is used as a way to express feelings towards people that he was once afraid to share, but here he doesn’t hold back. Write an honest poem where you share something with the people closest to you that you might not have shared with them before. Say the things you’ve always wanted to say, express the feelings you’ve always wanted to express. Don’t be afraid to include yourself in there as well. What are you afraid to share even with yourself?