Wildfire: A Verse Essay on Obscurity and Illumination (Paperback)
Poetry. WILDFIRE is a verse essay. It is trying to persuade us, to recognize that certain catastrophes and felicities are not inevitable. It concerns the history of incendiary devices, of the evolution of Greek fire from a divine secret which could sustain or destroy empires, into white phosphorus and napalm; the elliptical fires of the pre-Socratics, Aristotle's service to Alexander in the fashioning of pyrotechnics, the burning/blooming/mating bodies of G. H. Schubert and the self-feeding crowds of Elias Canetti; mechanisms to project fire, to make it burn on water and stick to wood and skin, to keep it off the walls of the besieged towns, and what those mechanisms (projection and defense) have done to geometry; the courts of fire, the legal chamber and the hortus conclusus, and the margins of ambiguity where it is lobbed with impunity; embedded nuggets and embedded reporters, the discovery of the chemical element, industrial tragedy, the resistance of the matchgirls at Bryant & May, the corruption of Quaker capitalists, washing powder and toothpaste. It is an etiology of metaphors, shake-n-bake and whisky pete and phantom fury. It is also an argument about obscurity and illumination: WILDFIRE does both, smokes the bright air and singes the night with trajectories. And so an interrogation of writing practices which fume as much as they enlighten.