Press & Reviews

Joan Burstyn Address to the 2017 American Education Studies Association Annual Meeting
November 4, 2017

Poetry Sunday: Joan Burstyn (October 29, 2017)
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The Impacts of War on a Poet and her Family on MCAI, Cape and Islands NPR Station (September 14, 2017)
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A Poet’s Observations of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict on WCAI, Cape and Islands NPR Station (September 6, 2016)
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Joan on “Talking with 2 Poets on The Point,” The Point with Mind Todd on WCAI, Cape and Islands NPR Station (September 9, 2014)

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Joan on “The Point with Mindy Todd” on WCAI, Cape and Islands NPR Station (rerun April 2014)

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Searching for God

Rabbi Neil Gillman in “The The Bookshelf,” Voices of Conservative/Masorti Judaism Vol.5, no.3 (Spring 2012), p.13.

“At various points in the history of these book reviews, I have chosen to highlight publications by laypeople who have devoted years of study and serious thinking to Jewish theological issues. The partners in this striking exchange are Joan Burstyn, professor emerita of education and history, and Gershon Vincow, emeritus professor of chemistry and formerly vice-chancellor for academic affairs, both at Syracuse University. What we have here is an extended exchange of letters between the two, essentially capturing a form of chevruta study, on topics such as mystical and rational approaches to God, revelation and command, and the interchange between physics and theology in forming metaphors for God. (Full disclosure: my own writing is one of the books studied by the authors.) The closest parallel to these exchanges is the celebrated early 20th century correspondence between Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig on revelation and law published in “On Jewish Learning.” Both authors are academicians, both are serious, committed, worshipping Conservative Jews, and both are accessible writers. If the exchanges that form this book are indicative of the kind of studying taking place among lay Jews in our day, then the future of Jewish theology is in excellent hands. Thank you for that.”

Path Into the Sun

Ronald Waldron, England

“Joan Burstyn’s poetry is artfully designed to be approachable by the common reader. The language and rhythms of these brief lyric poems are those of everyday conversation or meditation heightened into verse. She allows herself very little in the way of artifice. Rhyme and assonance are used so rarely as to seem inadvertent (p. 50: bell / call, fly / July). The figure of choice is typically simile: p. 44,

“my mind
searches out thoughts, like a scavenger
seeking for bread”

Sometimes she goes straight to metaphor (e.g., p. 58, Covering Up the Rust); a dream setting may give scope for the imaginary and the fantastic (e.g., p. 48, Blanched Bones); occasionally even allegory makes an appearance (e.g., p. 72, The Gates). But everywhere, approaches are clearly signaled and the overall effect is one of directness and transparency, of an honest wish to communicate, individual to individual, a recognised and shared experience.

We are aware throughout that this experience is based on the poet’s personal and professional life; but, while the personal history is never far from the surface -indeed is sometimes precisely specified, as in, for instance, Atlanta, History of Education Society, 1990 (p. 65), or In the Lake District with My Brother (p. 59) — the aim doesn’t come over as autobiographical but as that of opening the inner life of a representative late-twentieth-century person.

For me, one of the most successful in conveying the complexity of a common human experience is the beautiful little poem Grief (p. 17), which begins:

“Like a peony my grief grew
lush and green until the buds
burst into a display,
luxuriant as a lyre bird”

and where the language of burgeoning and fading nature, as applied to the nature of grief, goes on to draw the reader into a fresh realisation of ambiguity and paradox lying below the level of conventional sentiment and thus into an awareness of all the issues surrounding life, death and the individual self — a remarkable achievement in thirteen short lines, and representative of other
poems in this interesting collection.”

Ferris Olin, Director, Institute for Women and Art, Rutgers University

“Joan Burstyn views the stuff of our daily lives with keen observation rendered in thoughtful expression. These lyrical poems remind us that the life cycle and our emotional reactions to everyday occurrences bring to the surface love, memories, regret and thoughts of life’s ending. An inspiring book.”

Margaret McCormick, Director Woods Hole Public Library

“Finally, the public can enjoy Joan Burstyn’s poetry as the Woods Hole community has for years!”