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This report is taken from PN Review 258, Volume 47 Number 4, March - April 2021.

Fire and Tears: A Meditation Vahni Capildeo
The world is on fire. News of fires comes flying from poet and non-poet friends alike: not fires of scandal, but a tornado of fire in the US, the estimated death or displacement of perhaps three billion animals in Australia’s bush fires, and a landmark tree standing on Lady Chancellor Hill in Trinidad where my friend and I used to walk, still the shape of itself, but largely charcoal. John Kinsella, at an online event at the University of Warwick (November 2020), spoke of his hands-on work creating and maintaining firebreaks, and planting trees. Introducing the poetry readings and symposium for Plumwood Mountain journal’s ‘Writing in the Pause’ issue, Jonathan Skinner noted it could be called ‘Writing in the Fire’. Skinner’s introduction takes up this theme, pointing to the sameness as well as difference of the fires of ecological and sociopolitical violence. He quotes James Baldwin: ‘Do I really want to be integrated into a burning house?’

According to people with a good internet connection, amiable faces, and eyesight that tolerates Zoom, we are integrated, or bricked up into, our houses as never before, while the pandemic flares around us. The office-house is a place of relative safety and comfort. It burns only as a hearth, a comfortable gathering-place… unless fire is hurled at it, unfairly. I shall return to this notion, which is acquiring the status of truth by virtue of repetition. First, a little more on fire.

Fire was integrated into my childhood house in the Americas as the Hindu god, Agni. When blue gas flared ...

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