Bursk Wins Award

Jenn Arrow

Dr. Christopher Bursk, an award-winning Language and Literature professor at Bucks, as well as a published writer, has received the 2002 Green Rose Prize in Poetry for his collection, Ovid at Fifteen.

Although winning the annual award from Western Michigan University promises a $1,000 cash prize and publication of the book, “just holding the book in his hands” means the most to Dr. Bursk.

The New Issues Press Poetry Series sponsors the award to honor poets that have previously published one or more books of poetry. Dr. Bursk’s seven published works made him more than qualified for the contest.

Ovid at Fifteen is an honest portrayal exploring the beauty and passion of life. This collection of poetry discovers the flaws of human beings and the contradiction of failure and pleasure.

“Fifteen” expresses the messages of life and death as “wanting to throw yourself off the cliff, plunging into the very heart of color.”

Dr. Bursk praised the cover of his book, calling the creation of Emilie Oswald, an art student from Western Michigan University, “a labor of love.”

Louis McKee, from the American Book Review, claimes that “Bursk’s poems take us inside, into the huge sad city, to meet the general population.”

This relays the personal classroom interactions that inspire Dr. Bursk, in which he feels, “is a privilege to experience daily in his classroom of college students.” Teaching a Bucks literature class focused on Greek and Roman mythology inspired the passion and risky endeavors that were explored in Ovid at Fifteen, which Bursk considered, “a personal application of his own life.”

After thirty-four years of teaching at Bucks, Bursk said that the students fuel his passion for education. He admits to being terrified of the interaction with people and does not feel rewarded when he “loses his students” each semester. However, his connection with students is considered a privilege and a treasure for Bursk.

Teaching consumed much of Bursk’s time after he received his doctorate in American Literature from Boston University in 1975; however his passion is for writing. This seems hard to believe when viewing the many teaching awards Bursk has received over the years. Being a recipient of Buck’s Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award as well as receiving the national Pennsylvania Professor of the Year honors, are just a few of Bursk’s teaching honors.

Writing is another gift of Bursk, where he received many awards over the years. In addition to his Green Rose Prize in Poetry, he has been given the National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, a Pew Fellowship, and the Chicago Literary Award for Poetry.

Being published in the American Poetry Review, Manhattan Review, and the Beloit Poetry Journal has not made Bursk forget about his volunteer work at the Bucks County Correctional System for the past thirty years. Bursk compared his experience in the correctional facility to the college classroom, “where both worlds collide in a struggle to make sense out of life.” As a counselor and professor, Bursk was able to explore the range of possibilities in the real world, and then transform these experiences into his writings.

At sixty years old, Burst decided that although his students and his experience at the correctional facility were rewarding, he received greatest inspiration from his time at the Bucks County Poetry Workshop. For ten years, Burst taught the Poetry Workshop, where a wide range of occupations would attend the weekly sessions. From doctors to music teachers, each student was committed to writing poetry on their own time. Such commitment and drive inspired Bursk to feel the same about his own poetry. Each member inspired him in their own way, according to Bursk.

The work at the weekly workshop and his volunteer work at the Correctional Facility provoked A Women’s Place, a domestic violence shelter in Bucks County, to honor Bursk with the 2001 Citizen Advocate Award. About three decades ago, the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce also recognized Bursk as the Humanitarian of the Year.

Dr. Burst presently resides in Langhorne Manor and continues to teach
Literature at Bucks. Throughout the years Bursk has been showered with various awards for teaching, writing, and his community service. Burst says he will keep teaching for inspiration, volunteer for his service to the community, and write to satisfy his passion.