Six Of The Best: Jane Burn | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Jane Burn is an artist and award winning poet who lives in the North East who has recently released her eighth book and whose work is widely published in many magazines and anthologies. Her artwork focuses on themes of nature and being environmentally aware and is often made up of reclaimed materials. 

Jane has made a piece of text art called Imagine Your Words for the window display of Eston Arts Centre, Middlesbrough, whilst the inside space remains closed over August. Videos of her practice as an artist/poet/maker will be able to be viewed via their Facebook page.

Here, Jane shares with us her favourite things across a broad range of artforms in her six of the best…

Art
I adore colour and pattern and find looking at such intricacies incredibly soothing and absorbing. My particular passion is folk art – in particular, Scandinavian, Russian, Mexican and ‘American Primitive’. I find it’s honest, unpretentious interpretations of the world incredibly appealing. They did not stifle themselves with worrying about how anyone else would view their work – they just painted because they wanted to paint. Rules of perspective and anatomy for example, are not always followed. Folk artists worked with whatever materials they had at hand and I do the same – many of my works are done on reclaimed materials like wood. I have even painted on the walls of my home, bone and feathers. I find folk art courageous – it does not seek academic approval, nor does it worry about the boundaries of ‘taste’ or ‘style’. It pays no heed to fashion. It exists purely as a celebration of life, the environment, family, nature, everyday life and cultures and the skills involved ought not to be dismissed.

Poetry
If I had to choose a couple of areas in poetry that I love, it would be ‘confessional’ and ‘nature’ poetry. When I write, it is to understand and express honestly my feelings and life experiences and I often and up intertwining these themes with nature, which is also incredibly important to my health and well-being (the W.D.Snodgrass poem Heart’s Needle is a good example of this).I have very complex reader-relationships with Anne Sexton and Sylvia Path who in their time were ground breaking in their unflinching exploration of subjects like mental health, sexuality and relationships. I also love poems that strongly suggest time, place, history, witness, humanity and experience but do so in a way that aches with beauty – Carolyn Forché is a superb example of this. For our relationship with nature, I love to visit the poems of Seamus Heaney or you can find many wonderful works like this one, South, by Natasha Trethewey. For me, the poem of all poems is the heartbreaking Strange Fruit by Abel Meeropol (which was sung by Billie Holiday). It is such a warning for us now. We must never risk horror like this happening to people ever again.

Television/Film (counts as two)
I am not a huge watcher of television – I prefer to be writing, reading, playing my ukulele or creating art and after a busy day, I don’t have much time left for it. I have been making time in the last fortnight to watch episodes of Mrs America on BBC 2, which dramatises the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. One of my favourite films is Pan’s Labyrinth – a dark, challenging fairy tale with many difficult themes set against visually stunning effects. I am obsessed with interpreting myself through fairy tales as they can help you face the differences you feel within yourself and accept them. I really enjoyed the quirkiness of Napoleon Dynamite – it is a one of a kind film that celebrates a different kind of central character. Rabbit-Proof Fence is an incredible film as well. It is so very important that history does not forget.

Culture
Over the last seven years or so, I have become more and more involved with the North East’s very vibrant poetry scene – there are some phenomenal poets around these parts that I am so lucky to know. I have strong links with Middlesbrough thanks to p.a. morbid and his BLERoom monthly poetry nights and press. I have also been to great poetry events at Stockton Arc through Kirsten Luckin’s Tees Women Poets group. There is also the fantastic monthly Poetry Jam in Durham, run by Talking Pen’s Steve Urwin. I spent many happy years going to The Cumberland Arms in Byker for the Jibba Jabba poetry nights which were run by Jenni Pascoe. You can always find amazing events in Newcastle city centre too – check out The Lit & Phil and Newcastle University’s NCLA programme.

Music
I have a very varied taste in music. I got to express this during the worst of Lockdown, when I helped cheer myself and other people up by recording what I called my ‘uku-dailies’ – I made some videos playing my own cover versions of songs that I like. Everyone enjoyed them so much that I ended up recording 100 songs! In the end, they were viewed 13,000 times. One of these videos was a cover of Trash by Suede – a band I really love. It caught the attention of Suede’s drummer Simon Gilbert and I ended up performing a little live online ‘concert’ of Suede covers for him and the Suede fan group The Insatiable Ones. It was amazing and totally unexpected! Since then, I have even written a song of my own.

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