An Interview with Richard Burgin 

Interview conducted by Ann McCutchan

Prior to the publication of Richard Burgin’s eighth collection of short stories, Hide Island, ALR Editor-in-Chief Ann McCutchan interviewed the author about his life, work, and the genesis of the distinguished literary journal Boulevard, of which he is founding editor.  In addition to shared literary interests, McCutchan and Burgin come from musical backgrounds, which set the initial tone of their conversation. 

Ann McCutchan: You’re a writer, and you’ve also composed many songs. I’m very interested in your musical background. You know I am a musician, too, and was coached in chamber music with both of your parents, Richard Burgin and Ruth Posselt, who were well-known violinists. I’m curious about your background in that musical household, and the effects of that upbringing on you as an artist, in general.

Richard Burgin: Well, next to not having more children, as I only have one, the biggest regret of my life is that I didn’t go into music, study and pursue it seriously, so I have to begin with that.  I never studied music, except when I was very young.  I played the piano with my aunt, who was my mother’s sister — she had a number of sisters who were also professional musicians.  I studied with my mother, too.  One of my earliest childhood memories was crying because I wanted to go out and play, and not practice the piano.  My parents were both kind of liberal softies; they gave in and I never studied piano again.  Everything I do in music is by ear; I have no training whatsoever.

AM: What kind of teacher was your mother?

RB: She was a perfectionist. It was probably a big mistake to study with her.  I was 6 or 7 years old when I stopped, and my main memory was her perfectionism.  That decision really shaped the rest of my life, because I