You and I met through an online ezine called NPAC, is that correct?
We did meet through NPAC. I
was one of the first NPAC judges, and I helped introduce a number of other NPAC
Mike, do you come from a family of poets?
Up until just recently, I would have said no. But now my two sisters are both writing poetry, so I will amend that to yes. My mother is English, and she instilled love of poetry in me from an early age. She used to recite “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes to me when I was a young boy, and it’s still one of my favorite poems. Noyes died the year I was born, 1958.
Publishers? Seems gifted children often have very talented parents.
My mother didn’t graduate from high
school, as schoolgirls in
When you were a young child, did you
dream you would be doing what you are now?
If not, what did you dream about doing?
I was always a dreamer, and
still am. I dreamed of saving the world, and I still do. If I was playing a game
of pool, I would imagine that the outcome of the world rested on every shot. I
dreamed of being the President of the
Could you tell us a little about how your family inspired or didn't inspire your dreams?
I think my dreams were always
and entirely my own. I don’t think I ever told anyone any of my dreams. In fact,
you’re probably the first to know! But of course my family supported me. My
father provided for me, and my mother encouraged me. So of course I owe who and
what I am today to them.
I live in
Do you have children?
I have two sons, Nick and Jeremy.
Do you envision your child going too and living on other planets? Yourself?
They will have to take up living on other planets with their mothers! I assume I have no say in the matter. My wife Beth won’t let Jeremy, who is 14, ride a motorbike, much less live on Mars. I intend to stay entirely earthbound, only visiting the stars in my dreams and heaven (hopefully) when I die and get my wings.
You have a publishing business. Would you please share some of the books you’ve published and are going to publish.
Thanks for asking. I and my
partner, the Maltese poet Joe Ruggier who now lives in
Our most recent book is one
you helped get rolling, by introducing me to Takashi “Thomas” Tanemori.
Takashi-san, as his friends call him, is in my opinion an illuminated saint. His
book is called Hiroshima: Bridge to Forgiveness. Takashi was the Number One Son of an illustrious
Japanese Samurai family and was trained in the Seven Codes of the Samurai by the
father he adored. He lost his mother, father and four other family members to
He grew up as an orphan in
But in the United States he became ill and doctors who saw him as a “guinea pig” for research into radiation poisoning soon had him in such dire straits that he cowered under his bed and cried out to the sun, “I hate you! Go away and leave me alone!” Yet eventually, through the kindness of strangers and transcendent visions, he learned the path to inner peace through forgiveness, and went on to become a poet, artist and peace activist.
We have also published books of poems by Zyskandar Jaimot, Emery Campbell, T. Merrill, and V. Ulea, a Russian poet who writes in English.
Where do you see the publishing industry in twenty years?
Hopefully, twenty years older, twenty
years wiser, and twenty years better!
Technology will continue to help keep costs down, so eclectic books like those
published by Mbooks will continue to be viable.
Often artists have to do other jobs along with their passion to pay bills. Do you?
Yes, definitely. I’ve owned and operated a computer software business for over 25 years. It pays the bills so that I can write and publish in my free time. Writing is, in effect, my vacation from work.
Have you any books of 'Michael Burch's' poetry we should know about?
Alas, no. I’ve been published 700 times, but so far no book of my own.
Where do you see yourself and your publishing
business in five to ten years?
I would like to make writing and publishing my full-time occupation. If I can devote all my time and energy to writing and publishing, the sky (or perhaps even the stars) may be the limit.
If you could design the perfect life for yourself from this moment on, what would it be?
All the love and power of God would rest upon me, and I would become Michael the
That’s an interesting question! Perhaps the answer depends on the artist and his
Muse. Rimbaud chose to stop writing
poetry and instead became a gunrunner and slavetrader, if I remember correctly.
Matthew Arnold chose to stop writing poetry when he could no longer “convey
joy.” And yet many artists and poets feel that they have a “calling.” I believe
we may have to choose between Grace and Karma. If we believe the words come by
Grace, as a gift, then perhaps the words choose us. If we believe that
everything is cause and effect, then perhaps poetry is subject to Karma, and
suddenly everything is up to us.
I believe in the Muse, and in Grace, and I never have writer’s block. But I never try to force the words to obey me. Perhaps God leaves much of the direction of our lives up to us. But if we choose to believe in Grace, then perhaps the equation of life changes. Much of religion is based on Karma, on condemnation, on repentance, on confession, and sacrifice. I simply choose not to believe in these things, at least not in a spiritual sense, and ignore them.
I believe in Divine Love and Grace, and I am unafraid to receive every possible blessing, and to pass every possible blessing on, never worrying about being considered proud, or vainglorious, or taking credit where it is not due. If we give all the credit to Grace, how can we err? And isn’t the Archangel Michael happy about his, wonderful, glorious wings, and the fact that he can fly?
I recently saw a poodle bounding toward me, actually leaping into the air with each step, full of joy, and I think this is how we should see ourselves and our accomplishments. The poodle wasn’t arrogant; it was simply full of joy to be able to run and greet a friend. That’s how artists and poets should feel about their ability to “fly” and “bound” for the sake of their friends.
Could you stop writing poetry if you wanted?
I suppose I could. But why would I want to? An eagle with sufficient food might not have to fly, but wouldn’t it want to fly? So I hope I’ll always want to write poetry, although I do take “breathers” every now and then.
What would you tell poets just
I would tell them to read. Read a lot. Find poetry you actually
like to read, and immerse yourself in it. Read poets like William Blake, Walt
Whitman, Robert Frost, Hart Crane, Dylan Thomas, and Louise Bogan. Read the
Norton Anthologies from cover to cover, and circle or highlight the lines you
especially like. Go back and read the poems you like, and the lines you like,
over and over again. When you start to write, imagine you’re learning to ride a
bicycle or to do a magic trick. Don’t worry so much about the results at first as
the experience. If you have talent, and if you persevere, good results will
come. Don’t be overly critical of yourself. Just be honest.
If one poem doesn’t seem to work, put it aside for a rainy day, and work on another poem. All the bad poems don’t matter a bit, except for what you learn from them. Only the good poems matter, and a handful of good poems is all it takes to stand out from the pack. Write for yourself at first, but as you grow as a writer, begin to consider your readers. The reader is the object of the poet’s affection. If you write about things that only you can understand, you will alienate your readers. So try to share experiences with readers. Try to put them “inside” the poem, rather than making them outsiders. When you can touch and move readers, then you're a poet.
I read that poets are the hardiest of all artists as their works are rarely known in their own lifetimes. Would you agree? And if so, why are they so ignored until after their deaths?
It’s true that some of the greatest poets were hardly known in
their own time: Emily Dickinson, William Blake, Gerard Manley Hopkins. Both
Blake and Whitman published their own books. One reason for this is that some
poets are simply ahead of their times. Blake wrote lovely poems about
chimneysweeps and the world eventually “caught up” to Blake and eventually outlawed
that put children at risk.
Whitman was ahead of his time on many issues, and the civilized world still hasn’t caught up with him to this day on matters of universal tolerance and brotherhood. It sometimes takes time for the public to “catch up” to the great poets.
Today Rumi is the best-selling poet in the
Do you believe in reincarnation?
Have you been here before?
I don’t have any memories of another life. But I may have visions
of a future life. That would be pretty cool, if it’s true. I know a poet who has
very vivid visions of being alive at the time of Jesus. She tells me things that
aren’t in the gospels, such as the fact that Judas Iscariot was a scholar, and
that Jesus had lower eyeteeth that were longer than his other bottom teeth. She
seems very certain about these visions, and I can’t and don’t discount them.
While I don’t have memories of another life, I sometimes think that I have an “old spirit” that is full of light and power, and increasingly awakening. I’ve prayed for people and they’ve seen angels, or the Great White Light of heaven, so I am encouraged that we may not be “merely” human beings. Who we are in the spirit is yet to be revealed. Some of the people of the time of Jesus thought John the Baptist was Elijah. But I’m more concerned with who I am now, and who and what I am becoming, than I am with past lives I can’t remember. Maybe I don't want to remember them, in which case digging them up might be a mistake.
If artists are the creators of heaven on earth, what part of heaven are you creating for the world Mike?
The highest heaven, where there is only Divine Love and Grace,
and God is all in all. I’m afraid many people are all too willing to settle for
a lesser heaven. I wrote some lines about this:
There are very many “heavens,”
All of them hells,
Except for the one
Where the Good God dwells.
If you dream of going to “heaven” while your enemies burn in hell forever, what
sort of “God” will you be spending eternity with? If “God” tells you to choose
“eternal bliss” with him, while sentencing your loved ones to an eternal hell,
what sort of “heaven” is that?
When I read 1 Corinthians 13, in which Saint Paul tells us the nature of Divine Love, I must put on my “thinking cap,” for I am told that all the words of the Bible are merely noise, if God is not Love, and that God is nothing if he is not Love, despite all his knowledge, wisdom, faith and power. I am told that Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and never fails. If these things are true, why should I settle for anything less than the highest heaven, where a God of Love is all in all?
The more gifted, the more you are
asked to do. Do you agree?
That’s a good question. In a universe of Karma, this might be
true. In the realms of Grace, it might not be true. A lot depends on whether
there is a Higher Power, a God who is looking for vessels to fill. I simply ask
to be a vessel, and I know in my spirit that I am not condemned, for how can a
God of Love condemn his own spirit? Putting aside condemnation is very freeing,
because we can simply be “blown by the wind.” If the wind blowing is the Spirit
of God, then the fewer the constraints, the better.
If we don’t believe in Grace, and fall back under Karma, then perhaps the equation changes. But it is very hard to be perfect, and even the best actions can have negative consequences. So I choose not to condemn myself, or others, and if miracles and wonders are performed through me, all the better. I think we should be open to the miraculous, and we should act with compassion and lovingkindness in our daily lives. But the best gifts are the gifts of Grace, and Grace comes without strings. So I never feel that I have “let God down” and I never feel condemned for being human.
Tragedy and much suffering seem to be part of great artists. Why?
The last time I checked, every human being was subject to suffering and death. We may overemphasize the suffering of artists because they make art out of their suffering. I believe artists and poets are very good at conveying, and sympathizing with, human suffering. I’m not at all convinced that they suffer more than anyone else. It seems to me that we all suffer and die together. If anyone is ecstatically happy all the time, I have yet to meet him, or her.
What will happen to our spirits as
we become part machine and part human?
I think our spirits will remain the same. Our bodies are organic
machines. Did you know that the atoms that comprise our bodies are constantly
replaced? Every few months your body is entirely reconstituted. There may not be
an atom left that was part of you when you were born. We are truly strangers and
pilgrims, and most of our bodies are merely empty space.
I think of Ronald Reagan, who was “completely gone” at the time of his death, due to Alzheimer’s disease. And yet at the moment of his death he opened his eyes, and family members said that he looked at
I read the account of a doctor who said that a man whose mind was physically “gone” was able to wake up and actually talk to family members before passing on. While such things are impossible to “prove” scientifically, I would venture that the human body is simply a highly organized “cellular machine” and that our spirits are like those amazing photons that wink into and out of existence, disobeying even the limitation of the speed of light. Entangled photons can “dance” at opposite ends of the universe. Perhaps our spirits are also Light and exist simultaneously in other dimensions. Paul said that despite our human bodies we are already “seated in the heavenlies.”
Evolution is ruthless and continues marching forward whether we like it or not. Do you 'go with the flow' or are you one of the 'rebel artists' who has a harder time?
I believe evolution is our friend, not our enemy. Neuroscientists
have actually determined that the “compassion centers” of the brains of Tibetan
monks seem to evolve during their lifetimes, as a result of meditation and/or
prayer. When they meditate with compassion the “good” gamma rays generated by
their brains swamp the “bad” or “negative” gamma rays. It’s a fascinating study,
and I feel that I can confirm it myself.
In three short years of praying compassionate prayers “in the spirit,” I feel as though my brain has evolved, and my heart also. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that my body has created new blood vessels, that my heart is stronger, and that my brain has evolved new “compassion” circuitry that enables my prayers to produce or engage in miracles. While it seems obvious that evolution takes place in the natural world, there are two tremendous mysteries: (1) how did life begin; and (2) how can highly complex systems like the eyeball and the female reproductive system “happen at random”?
How can a baby be nurtured in the womb by accident, when a zillion things have to happen “just so”? It may be that God directs evolution, or that our genes are intelligent, or that our spirits guide evolution. If something like this is the case, there is tremendous hope for the future. We are not the result of random mutation, but there is an intelligence directing us toward some ultimate goal. What would the ultimate goal of a life form be, if not to eliminate suffering and death?
When you look back at your life
Michael, has it gone steadfastly towards your hearts desires, or has it instead
taken many unexpected twists and turns along the way?
That’s hard to say. First, one would have to know one’s deepest
desires. For most of my life, I thought my deepest desire was to be rich, famous
and have every woman who struck my fancy. In those respects, I have hardly
achieved my wildest dreams. I am reasonably well off, certainly not famous, and
I have been married for fifteen years to my wife Beth. But in the last three
years it has occurred to me that I have “bigger dreams,” and who is to say that
they can’t yet be realized? Suppose that I write something and children and their
mothers and fathers are freed from the fear of hell?
Suppose I write something and the world changes as it did when Blake wrote about children working as chimneysweeps, after which child labor laws were eventually enacted? Now I simply keep my options open. A lot seems to depend on God. If God is Love, and if God is looking for vessels to convey his spirit to the world, then I think there is a good chance even my wildest dreams can be realized. If we live in a world of Karma, then I may be “barking up the wrong tree.”
If you were told you only had six
months left to live, how would you spend them?
I would try to put all my affairs to rest, so that I could ultimately rest in peace. I would tell my family goodbye, and not to worry about me. I would cut all the cords of Karma that tied me to this world, so that when I entered the tunnel of light, I won’t have to look back. When the angels appeared to suggest that I review my life, I would tell them there is nothing to review, nothing left undone, nothing to judge or condemn. I would tell them I chose to stop judging and condemning myself, and others, and that I certainly wouldn’t want to start again in heaven, the realm of Divine Love and Grace.
I don’t think I would do a lot of things I haven’t done in this
life. I would probably eat whatever I liked and enjoy each and every meal, but
that’s what I already do now. I would probably try to publish my favorite poems
and perhaps some letters of advice to my sons, wife, family and friends. I would
suggest that they to read Walt Whitman and Mark Twain and not believe all the
sheet, utter nonsense of orthodox religion.
I might write a few outraged letters to various churches and pastors, asking them why they drove me from the church and God for over thirty years, with their horrific visions of an eternal hell that surely doesn’t exist, and would make God the Devil if it did. I might start working out, just in case I really am Michael the
Tomorrow's not promised. Do you
live your life 100% or are you a more 'middle path' person. Are artists ever
able to truly live the 'middle path'?
I’m not sure what the middle path is. We’re either alive or dead, unless we’re in a coma. Now, if you mean jumping out of airplanes or riding mechanical bulls … no, because I don’t enjoy those sorts of things. What I like to do is read and dream and imagine and do all sorts of productive things, and I’ve been doing just that every day of my life. I never waste time unless I’m resting, and resting is not wasting time, so I don’t feel that I’m ever not living a full life. But I simply don’t need some of the things other people need: excitement, wild parties, risk, danger. If I were to subdue the Devil, I would hope to do it by the power of God, so that it would be “easy as pie.”
Do you believe at the moment of
death, you will be pleased with the way your life has gone? If not, why?
I think I will be pleased. The reason is simple. I have had a revelation in my spirit that God does not condemn me. Now, if I was doing something displeasing to him, why wouldn’t he tell me here on earth, while there is time to reform? If he doesn’t condemn me here, what sense would it make for him to condemn me later, when it’s too late? And if God doesn’t condemn me, why should I condemn myself? I am certainly not perfect, but I don’t expect my wife to be perfect, or my sons, or anyone else. It seems to me that when I came to earth, I chose an impossible task for myself. I chose to put an end to sin, suffering, death and hell. But how can a human being do those things? Only God can do those things. So if any part of my chosen task is left incomplete, it would be silly of me to judge myself.
People seem to be 'asleep' to their
higher selves. What does it take to wake us up? Can poetry do that Mike?
I believe poetry, music and art can help. But I didn’t awaken to my higher self until I learned to pray in the spirit. When I learned to pray in the spirit, I began to receive in the spirit, and what I received was very simple. I learned three things:
God is Light, and in him there is no darkness at all.
There is no condemnation in Christ. I believe we are all in Christ, but many of us don’t know it, while some of the people who “know” it have everything backwards. All condemnation comes from ourselves, and much of it is the result of religion gone haywire.
God desires chesed (mercy, compassion, loving kindness), not sacrifice (the things we “do” and “give up” for God).
I understood that God is Light and does not condemn me (or anyone) for being
human, and that what God desires is an attitude of the heart, not sheer
performance, getting in touch with my “higher self” became extraordinarily easy.
It seems we have made something very simple amazingly complicated.
If God is Love and does not condemn mankind, then the main impediment to enlightenment is any religion based on condemnation, guilt, shame, repentance, confession and sacrifice. Where poetry, art and music can help is that they are based on sympathy for all life. But to find light and power in our spirits, I believe we have to stop condemning ourselves and other people. Reading poets like Walt Whitman and Rumi is one way to begin this path.
For me, the path started and ended when I compared myself to Jesus Christ, and simply “gave up” on any idea of my own “righteousness.” Jesus reserved all his strongest words for the religious experts of his time, and what they were good at was ignoring their own faults while berating others for theirs. In the end, it seems both paths lead to the same point: putting aside condemnation and embracing compassion. If we learn this through the arts, or through religion, it doesn’t matter, if God is Love. But it’s hard to learn through religion because of theology and dogma. Poetry, art and music tell us that love and grace are free and for everyone. Orthodox religion tries to bottle up love and grace, put a lid on them, and sell them as part of a package.
Is prayer part of your life?
Sometimes artists say when doing their artform, that is their prayer.
Yes, I usually pray for an hour or
more a day, most days. But I never feel that I “have” to pray, nor do I have a
particular “prayer list.” I say very short, powerful prayers of the spirit in
my “prayer closet.” Then I pray for an hour or more while walking and picking up
trash in our neighborhood. This way, prayer never seems like a chore, although I
pray while doing a self-appointed chore.
I dream about healing and miracles and angels descending from heaven on my prayers. Imagination and dreams are an integral part of my prayers. Some of my poems these days are prayers, and I’ll share one with you in closing.
I learned the nature of Divine Love by reading 1 Corinthians 13 and asking what God must like if he inspired the most inspired passage in the New Testament, and then by reading what children have said and questioned about God, while constantly asking myself “What is the nature of Divine Love?” and “What is not the nature of Divine Love?” What I learned surprised me. I came to understand that Divine Love does not demand worship, or praise, or sacrifice. The children are right and the great theologians are quite obviously wrong … and perhaps that's why we have to become like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Our own parents don't demand worship, praise and sacrifice. Why should God?
I Pray Tonight
I pray tonight
that the light
that, come what may,
no demon confound you.
I pray for tomorrow
an end to your sorrow.
May angels’ white chorales
sing, and astound you
Through our long years of dreaming to be
we grew toward an enigmatic light
that gently warmed our tendrils. Was it sun?
We had no eyes to tell; we loved despite
the lack of all sensation–all but one:
we felt the night’s deep chill, the air so bright
at dawn we quivered limply, overcome.
To touch was all we knew, and how to bask.
We knew to touch; we grew to touch; we felt
spring’s urgency, midsummer’s heat, fall’s lash,
wild winter’s ice and thaw and fervent melt.
We felt returning light and could not ask
its meaning, or if something was withheld
more glorious. To touch seemed life’s great task.
At last the petal of me learned:
And you were there, surrounding me. We touched.
The curious golden pollens! Ah, we touched,
and learned to cling and, finally, to hold.
For All That I Remembered
For all that I remembered, I forgot
her name, her face, the reason that we loved ...
and yet I hold her close within my thought.
I feel the burnished weight of auburn hair
that fell across her face, the apricot
clean scent of her shampoo, the way she glowed
so palely in the moonlight, angel-wan.
The memory of her gathers like a flood
and bears me to that night, that only night,
when she and I were one, and if I could ...
I’d reach to her this time and, smiling, brush
the hair out of her eyes, and hold intact
each feature, each impression. Love is such
a threadbare sort of magic, it is gone
before we recognize it. I would crush
my lips to hers to hold their memory,
if not more tightly, less elusively.
Originally published byThe Raintown Review
What the poet sees,
he sees as a swimmer underwater,
watching the shoreline blur,
sees through his breath’s weightless bubbles:
both worlds grow obscure.
Originally published by Mandrake Poetry Review
In Praise of Meter
The earth is full of rhythms so precise
the octave of the crystal can produce
a trillion oscillations, yet not lose
a second’s beat. The ear needs no device
to hear the unsprung rhythms of the couch
drown out the mouth’s; the lips can be debauched
by kisses, should the heart put back its watch
and find the pulse of love, and sing, devout.
If moons and tides in interlocking dance
obey their numbers, what is left to chance?
Should poets be more lax–their circumstance
as humble as it is?–or readers wince
to see their ragged numbers thin, to hear
of Nero’s death, yet mourn the Cavalier?
Originally published by The Eclectic
Muse and The Best of the Eclectic Muse 1989-2003
Her predatory eye,
the single feral iris,
Her raptor beak,
all jagged sharp-edged thrust,
Her hard talon,
clenched in pinched expectation,
Her clipped wings,
preened against reality,
See how her hair has thinned: it doesn't
like hair at all, but like the airy moult
of emus who outraced the wind and left
soft plumage in their wake. See how her eyes
are gentler now; see how each wrinkle laughs,
and deepens on itself, as though mirth took
some comfort there and burrowed deeply in,
outlasting winter. See how very thin
her features are--that time has made more spare,
so that each bone shows, elegant and rare.
For loveliness remains in her grave eyes,
and courage in her still-delighted looks:
each face presented like a picture book’s.
Bemused, she blows us undismayed goodbyes.
still we say
with eyes averted, turning out the light,
"I love you," in the ordinary way
and tug the coverlet where once we lay,
all suntanned limbs entangled, shivering, white ...
indescribably in love. Or so we say.
Your hair’s blonde thicket now is
you turn your back; you murmur to the night,
"I love you," in the ordinary way.
Beneath the sheets our hands and feet
to warm ourselves. We do not touch despite
a love so indescribable. We say
we’re older now, that "love" has had its
But that which Love once countenanced, delight,
still makes you indescribable. I say,
"I love you," in the ordinary way.
A black ringlet
curls to lie
at the nape of her neck,
glistening with sweat
in the evaporate moonlight ...
This is what I remember
now that I cannot forget.
if I have forgotten her name,
rigid wire and white lace
half-impressed in her flesh ...
our soft cries, like regret,
... the enameled white clips
of her bra strap
still inscribe dimpled marks
that my kisses erase ...
now that I have forgotten her face.
A week before the Armistice, you died.
They did not keep your heart like Livingstone’s,
then plant your bones near Shakespeare’s. So you lie
between two privates, sacrificed like Christ
to politics, your poetry unknown
except for one brief flurry: thirteen months
with Gaukroger beside you in the trench,
dismembered, as you babbled, as the stench
of gangrene filled your nostrils, till you clenched
your broken heart together and the fist
began to pulse with life, so close to death.
Or was it at Craiglockhart, in the care
of "ergotherapists" that you sensed life
is only in the work, and made despair
a thing that Yeats despised, but also breath,
a mouthful’s merest air, inspired less
than wrested from you, and which we confess
we only vaguely breathe: the troubled air
that even Sassoon failed to share, because
a man in pieces is not healed by gauze,
and breath’s transparent, unless we believe
the words are true despite their lack of weight
and float to us like chlorine--scalding eyes,
and lungs, and hearts. Your words revealed the fate
of boys who retched up life here, gagged on lies.