The Woods Are on Fire: New and Selected Poems

The Woods Are on Fire: New and Selected Poems

The Woods Are on Fire: New and Selected Poems

The Woods Are on Fire: New and Selected Poems


The Woods Are On Fire is Fleda Brown's deeply human and intensely felt poetic explorations of her life and world. Her account includes her brain-damaged brother, a rickety family cottage, a puzzling and sometimes frightening father, a timid mother, and the adult life that follows with its loves, divorces, and serious illnesses. Visually and emotionally rich, Brown's poems call on Einstein, Shakespeare, Sophocles, Law and Order, Elvis, and Beethoven. They stand before the Venus de Milo as well as the moon, as they measure distances between what we make as art and who we are as humans. In wide-ranging forms--from the sestina to prose poems--they focus on the natural world as well as the Delaware legislature and the inauguration of William Jefferson Clinton.

The Woods Are On Fire includes nearly fifty new poems, along with poems selected from seven previous books, showcasing an influential American poet's work over the last few decades.


In the opening paragraphs of Walden, Henry David Thoreau writes, “I, on my side, require of every writer, first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life, and not merely what he has heard of other men’s lives; some such account as he would send to his kindred from a distant land; for if he has lived sincerely, it must have been in a distant land to me.”

There’s an important suggestion behind those words: the author whom Thoreau seeks and admires makes an offer of his words to someone else. We might think that a transaction too obvious to point to, but there is a great deal of poetry written and published today that turns its back (sometimes with apparent disdain) upon the reader. During the past one hundred years of the Modern and now Postmodern ages, a great deal of our poetry has turned away from communication. At a poetry festival a few years ago, I heard a noted American poet say that it is the responsibility of readers to educate themselves to a level that they can understand what poets write. Thoreau would no doubt have scoffed at such arrogance.

One of my purposes in editing this series is to present the work of American poets who are doing their best to make gifts to their readers— to communicate, to charm, to persuade. Jared Carter’s Darkened Rooms of Summer and Connie Wanek’s Rival Gardens are just such gifts, as is this third book.

Fleda Brown’s book is indeed the sincere account of a life, though it is, to use Thoreau’s word, “simple” only in that it is open-handed and . . .

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