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Jo Burns


JO BURNS was born in County Derry and is the author of three poetry collections. She has won several Poetry Society Members Poems competitions, as well as the Magma Poetry Competition, the Irish Writers’ Festival Shirley McClure Prize, the Wild Word New Irish Writing in Germany Award, The Listowel Poetry Prize and The Poetry Society UK Hamish Canham Poetry Prize.

Genre: Poetry
Number of publications: 1

Smart, immersive and original, The Conversation was a risk worth taking.

— Rebecca Goss

Sample Work

Fist-Fight In Front of Guernica

Dora, what hurt me was not your fists
or even him in your clutch.

It was his passivity as we hissed
at each other. He’d told me before

about Guernica; how it was for me,
the extent of his love. I’d accepted his use

of my blood, but still...
A woman knows when something is up.
The one in his new work was elegant, sharp,

sleek and dark. And here you were, claiming
it all. I asked him Pablo, which one of us leaves?

and he weighed me, gentle, against you, smart.
Dora, you know he refused to decide;

not truly yours but no longer mine.
We grappled, writhed. But what’s a few bruises

compared to being drawn as you die slowly?
More painful than those new sketches of me,

increasingly ugly, pastelled and blurred,
was my victimhood, portrayed by him

contrasted with glamour and monochrome.
And then the smirk as you and I bled;

The choicest experience of my life, he said.

Dora, can you imagine yet how it feels
to see through art how undesired you are?

A Life in Time

The more I read the less I’m sure
Who exactly Dora was and who
She is to me
So much of what I read is by those
Who cast her as subsumed by Picasso
Defined by him and cowed forever
I don’t know what to believe
I came to her through her art
The biography overshadowed
By canvasses and photographs
I didn’t want to learn about her
As a muse but as herself
But now I feel he closes in on everything
I can’t find a page or book without
The Weeping Woman or Picasso
Lounging in a deck chair
I suppose what I’m saying is
The voice of Dora I have used
Is no more her than anything else
What I want her to be and what she was
Are two unconnected places
I’m tracing her life through thickened pages
Jo, I hope you’ll allow me this moment
Of hesitation. I am excited to meet Françoise
The one who got away. I’m beginning to think
Dora never did, but maybe I can plot
A route for both of us




Video Discussion between Jo Burns and Emily Cooper about "The Conversation"

Jo Burns Video Reading


The Conversation
The Conversation Updated

ISBN: 978-1-907682-97-1 | Pages: 88 | Hardback | Year published: 2024

THE CONVERSATION is a collaborative poetry collection by Jo Burns and Emily Cooper which imagines a conversation held between Marie-Thérèse Walter, Dora Maar and Françoise Gilot, three of Picasso’s lovers and subjects. More often than not these figures were not named, but titled by their actions: weeping, reading, reclining. What Picasso wilfully obscured was the women behind these paintings: their lives and works, their relationships with him, their children and careers that were indelibly marked by their connection to a man considered to be one of the greatest artists of all time.