Donna Lisle Burton

Donna Lisle Burton grew up beside the Ohio River in eastern Ohio, in an area of coal mines and steel mills, now mostly gone. For most of her life she has lived in the South, where she worked as a special education teacher. She spent more than a decade in Montgomery and Tuskegee, Alabama, and lived for many years in Greenville, SC. In 2001 Burton moved to western North Carolina, near the Blue Ridge Parkway in Fairview, a few miles south of Asheville, where she lives with her daughter and grandson.

Burton studied poetry with such luminaries as Gilbert Allen of Furman University in Greenville, SC, and Cathy Smith Bowers, North Carolina’s Poet Laureate, 2010-2012. Her poems have appeared in Atlanta Review, Illuminations, Potpourri, Main Street Rag, Kalliope, The Licking River Review, and other publications. She is also an accomplished painter, portraitist, and photographer, and nine of her drawings, including the self-portrait shown here, are included in Letting Go.

Her newest collection, From Roots … to Wings, describes in poetry her evolution from a childhood of curiosity, confusion, inspiration, and enthusiasm to a young woman who begins to find her own way in the world. Her uninhibited take on the world, coupled with razor-sharp memories of teachers, guides, and experiences that led her forward, are poignant and sometimes shocking, as well as, of course, funny and exhilarating.

Letting Go previously appeared in a limited private edition, and we jumped at the chance to reissue such a remarkable collection under the Pisgah imprint.  In fact, we purchased a copy of the original edition as a gift for a friend, but on reading it, could not let it go, and had to buy a second copy to give away. While collections of poetry rarely make the bestsellers’ lists, Letting Go is continually available through online retailers Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and the author gains a new fan with every purchaser.

Burton’s more recent collection, Way Past Time for Reflecting, was published in 2016. The title is deceptive: a brilliant poet never stops reflecting, even on the most disturbing aspects of life. Age, diminishing mobility, the loss of loved ones, upheaval and sorrow are not just burdens to be borne, but subjects for thoughtful, insightful verse.

Among the most profound and beautiful sections in the book are those depicting the heartfelt struggles of a woman watching helplessly as her husband falls deeper and deeper into dementia. As she writes in her dedication, “these poems are dedicated to dear friends—you know who you are—and family, without whom, I could not have traveled this long road to here….”

More than anyone else, Donna Lisle Burton taught A. D. Reed (Editor-in-Chief of Pisgah Press) the value and beauty of poetry. Anyone who reads her books will likewise learn the same appreciation.