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Bone Fires

Bone Fires by Mark Jarman is a collection of new and selected poems. The book begins with the 19 new poems, which carry on themes found in earlier collections of Jarman’s work—a keen interest in nature and the surrounding world, a love of family, and a struggle with the mystery of spirituality. Many of the poems recount incidents from his childhood. One such poem, “Mary Smart,” reflects on the life of a widow he knew when he was young, who told him “Mark, you know we are not our bodies,” referring to the spiritual aspect of a person that the author questions and examines throughout the book.

Bone Fires by Mark Jarman is a collection of new and selected poems. The book begins with the 19 new poems, which carry on themes found in earlier collections of Jarman’s work—a keen interest in nature and the surrounding world, a love of family, and a struggle with the mystery of spirituality. Many of the poems recount incidents from his childhood. One such poem, “Mary Smart,” reflects on the life of a widow he knew when he was young, who told him “Mark, you know we are not our bodies,” referring to the spiritual aspect of a person that the author questions and examines throughout the book.

Another notable new poem is “Dispatches from Devereux Slough.” This poem consists of thirteen titled sections, each situated in the slough, some focusing on wildlife, like “Black Phoebe,” and others on seasons, such as “September Song.”

The collection’s title poem, “Bone Fires,” begins with a story about a bonfire on Guy Fawkes day that commemorates

a much older terror, the sun weakening,
Dipping out of sight earlier and earlier, Its worshipers panicking in the darkness
And forcing the darkness back, sending
A message through in a body of fire.

He draws a correlation between his poetry and these offerings, “offered like brides to lure the sun to return” to eventually “gather now around pyres of memory / Upon memory, bundled and stacked and ignited / At any time, but especially as winter comes on.”

These memories are further explored through selections from previous books, including poems from North Sea, The Rote Walker, Far and Away, The Black Riviera, Questions for Ecclesiastes, Unholy Sonnets, To the Green Man, and Epistles.

Bone Fires is an excellent representative collection of Jarman’s work, perfect for those who are longtime fans or reading him for the first time.

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