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The Fire in All Things


Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets

64 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / no illustrations


  Hardcover / 9780807118276 / March 1993
  Paperback / 9780807118283 / March 1993

Selected by Richard Howard from almost one thousand entries, Stephen Yenser’s The Fire in All Thingsis the most recent recipient of the Walt Whitman Award, given annually by The Academy of American Poets to honor an outstanding collection of verse by an American poet who has not previously published a book-length collection. The poems in The Fire in All Things are as intricate as vines that intertwine and twist around the trunk of a tree; yet high though the poems climb, each has its roots in the natural world, and in the heart. Ruins, architectural and emotional, fill these poems even as the language restores itself in puns, internal rhymes, and slant rhymes. The long poem “Bertumnal” begins with these lines:

Close call, close call, close call: this early in the morning
The raucous crows’ raw caws are ricochets off rock.

Afloat on wire from a dead tree’s branch a piece of charred limb
Repeats a finch that perched on it in its last life.

Here under the pergola, loaded with green wisteria, Misty air wistful with a few late lavender clusters,

Light falling in petal-sized spots across the notebook page
(Falling just now for instance on the phrase Light falling) . . .

The Fire in All Things reveals a poet of mature talent—shrewdly observant of the world around him, possessed of a keen wit and a formidable command of the language. 

Stephen Yenser, whose poems have appeared in the Partisan Review, the Nation, the New Yorker, the Yale Review, and other magazines, has been the recipient of two Fulbright teaching fellowships and a Discovery/Nation Poetry Award. A native of Wichita, he is professor of English at the University of California at Los Angeles and the author of The Consuming Myth: The Work of James Merill and Circle to Circle: The Poetry of Robert Lowell.

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