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This review is taken from PN Review 83, Volume 18 Number 3, January - February 1992.

FIRE, EMERGENCIES, TECHNOLOGIES Phyllis Webb, Hanging Fire (Coach House Press) $12.95
Mary di Michele, Luminous Emergencies (McClelland & Stewart)
Anne Michaels, Miner's Pond (McClelland & Stewart)
Kim Maltman, Technologies/Installations (Brick Books)
Gary Geddes, Light of Burning Towers: Poems New and Selected (Vehicule Press)

To move from Phyllis Webb's Water and Light (reviewed in P·N·R 68) to Hanging Fire is like moving from Thales to Heraclitus, in the sense that the prime substance is not water but fire, and like moving from Pound's first Canto to the last in terms of accessibility. Suddenly Webb is speaking in tongues. The heart of the new book is a meditation on the nature of fire: as destruction, as purification, as pentecostal gift, as delusion. This is the title poem entire:

Furioso, flame-eyed Flamenco, castanets'
 death rattle.

Guru from the frozen North heats up
 shamanically, her two big feet
    Southbound.

As lights go out, crisis of lambency.

'Dresden/China' - or thereabouts.

A curtain of fire drops over the overview,
glass-like substances, 'fragments of
  quartz'.

They leap and hang in the air. Firebugs.
Organic memory goes up in smoke.

Action. Smiling. Acidulous. Eating
  its heart out.


The opening words apparently describe a Spanish dance; perhaps the guru is the dancer, a cool northerner fired by the spirit of the south. The lights, then, are going out for a performance; though the phrase 'crisis of lambency' is not clear to me. Then I reach Dresden, and associate fire-bombing, though the poem also reminds me (I think) that I must associate china (which is fired). Could it be that the next four lines, from 'A ...


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