The Fire Landscape


Poems by Gary Fincke
978-1-55728-881-3 (paper)
July 2008


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“Gary Fincke writes a poetry of abiding generosity, of true feeling and thought. His is an essential American voice.”
—Rodney Jones

The Fire Landscape is a series of poem sequences that chronicle a wide variety of coming-of-age moments from childhood in the 1950s through the beginning of the 21st century. These deeply layered, complex narrative poems are connected by close personal observation of place and time but also by the politics of the Cold War and its aftermath, including a sequence driven by the May 4, 1970, shooting of students by the National Guard at Kent State where Gary Fincke was a student at the time.

Although set in the recent past, these poems, through the multiple layering of their imagery, avoid nostalgia, achieving, instead, the tremendous density that comes from surprising association.

As Fincke says about the Kent State killings in “History Bites”:
“We thought they were blanks; we stood ignorant
As some lost tribe staring at sticks that smoked.
Which is the way these histories happen,
Somebody saying ‘Never,’ ‘Of course not,’
Or its thousand variants. The crowd scene
That follows, the jostling forward of trust.”

Gary Fincke is professor of English and creative writing at Susquehenna University. He has published nineteen books of poetry, short fiction, and nonfiction. Standing Around the Heart was a finalist for the 2007 Paterson Poetry Prize. Sorry I Worried You won the 2003 Flannery O’Connor Prize for Short Fiction. The Canals of Mars: A Memoir will be published this year.

The Fire Landscape is an eloquent addition to a masterful body of work by one of our best multi-genre writers.”
—Michael Waters, author of Darling Vulgarity

“No one is better than Gary Fincke at locating grand gestures inside the fragile details that make up a life. . . . The old dangers, the old fears, rise before us with radioactive language and an exactness of phrase, of line, that feels like catechism.”
—Fleda Brown, author of Reunion

“[A] remarkable series of poetic sequences . . . a bildungsroman for a generation that grew up watching the horizon for a different glow, the almost-wished-for atomic bomb. Few poets have so unnervingly located the personal at the imploding heart of a particular historical epoch.”
—James Harms, author of After West