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