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Living on Fire: A Collection of Poems

Adair, Virginia

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ISBN 10: 0375502890 / ISBN 13: 9780375502897
Verlag: Random House, Westminster, Maryland, U.S.A., 2000
Gebraucht Zustand: Fine Hardcover
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Bibliografische Details

Titel: Living on Fire: A Collection of Poems

Verlag: Random House, Westminster, Maryland, U.S.A.

Erscheinungsdatum: 2000

Einband: Hardcover


Zustand des Schutzumschlags: Fine

Auflage: First Edition.

Über diesen Titel


Returning to the range, structure, and lyric quality of the national bestseller Ants on the Melon, Virginia Hamilton Adair's new collection of poetry, Living on Fire, establishes more firmly than ever this writer's literary eminence. In clear, memorable poems--about love in its many variations, about music, about the American desert, about mortality, and about her own blindness--the poet speaks to her readers with a directness distinctly American, and with feeling enhanced and deepened by technical rigor. Of young love she writes, "Their arms bound them together like timbers/for a raft and they rocked a little, as if on water." Of her blindness: "Blind to abundance when I was not blind,/I breathe one rose and hold it in my mind." Of the Mojave she recalls "long purple robes trailing down the arroyos./As the sky dims into dusk."

All the poems in Living on Fire create their own small worlds. During a long-ago trip down the Mississippi, the author recalls, "Sometimes our waterways became narrow and dim, dark mirrors/under live-oak branches hung with Spanish moss and snakes." A new love affair brings "this nighttime madness/in the backseat of a roadster." Later, she remarks with almost as much wonder as sadness, "Sightless,/I have become a stranger to my own person." Together, these poems articulate a sensibility at once distinctive and universal. Virginia Hamilton Adair has taken the specificities of her own sometimes joyous, sometimes tragic life and transformed them into powerful celebrations and elegies whose beauty and profundity will affect everyone who reads them. Even in the midst of despair, this is a poet whose work, in its sustained passion, indeed lives on fire.


When her first collection, Ants on the Melon, was published in 1996, the 83-year-old Virginia Hamilton Adair was widely hailed as a literary comet. Her third, Living on Fire, offers yet another chance to marvel at Adair's poetic gifts. And with the thousands of poems rumored to be remaining in her enormous stockpile, we may well be sky gazing longer than we had any right to expect.

Given the poet's age, the tendency toward the elegiac in Living on Fire is no surprise. But these are not the poems of a cranky senior citizen. Instead, they're suffused with frankness and subversive humor, revolving around randy guinea pigs or furtive, fumbling love in a swerving roadster. Much of the nostalgia can be appreciated by old and young alike--by all those readers, in fact, who like their pleasures simple and their nature uncomplicated. "In the days before RV's," the author reminds us, "the sound of tent pegs being driven in was music." Several of these bucolics seem ripe and ready for the anthologies, where they'll find homes next to Adair's contemporaries, Elizabeth Bishop, Theodore Roethke, and Robert Lowell.

Living on Fire covers a range of poetic forms, with a fondness for rhyme that Adair attributes to her own blindness (the rhymes help her to envision the shape of the lines). Sightlessness is also a frequent subject, albeit one she approaches without a grain of self-pity. Indeed, the sensitivity with which Adair adapts to, and even embraces, her blindness is often inspiring:

From mountain summits that I cannot see,
the wind has brought the taste of snow to me
and night returns me, with a breath of frost,
the rim of white on Baldy, nine years lost.

Blind to abundance when I was not blind,
I breathe one rose and hold it in my mind.

Adair's poems offer an abundance of linguistic pleasures. And along with helping us to better understand our elders, they demonstrate a quiet dignity that all of us, poets or not, might well aspire to. --John Ponyicsanyi

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