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Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems Hardcover – February 15, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* This is precisely what a new-and-selected collection should be: a book better as well as bigger than any of those its contents are culled from. Confirming the poet�s integrity and consistency, it attests an invaluably unique poetic personality. Jarman has been the American poet of his mid-twentieth-century-born generation most thoroughly engaged with finding God�the incarnate, salvific Christian God. He has kept the quest quite personal, very rarely casting anyone but himself as the seeker in his poems (though he has also written one of the best book-length fictional narrative poems, Iris, 1992). He has written primarily formal verse; his �unholy sonnets� in Questions for Ecclesiastes (1997) and Unholy Sonnets (2000) are among the best religious examples of the form in English since Donne. The new poems that open this book are looser metrically and virtually rhymeless. Their subject matter�people, incidents, and feelings from his own life; animals and plants; classic myths; and God�is what it has always been, and so is the intelligently emotional and composed voice that speaks them, one that harmonizes with those of Jarman�s acknowledged masters, the late Welsh clergyman-poet R. S. Thomas and the turbulent �antihumanist� Robinson Jeffers, though Jarman is characteristically warmer than either of those great religious poets. --Ray Olson


“This is precisely what a new-and-selected collection should be: a book better as well as bigger than any of those its contents are culled from. Confirming the poet’s intergrity and consistency, it attests an invaluably unique poetic personality.”
—Ray Olson, Booklist (starred review)

“Subdued and tender, almost without a false move, these pages (reminiscent of Carl Dennis) return to the scenes of his first work, the source of his strength. Readers who think they know Jarman all too well may find an enlightening surprise.”
Publishers Weekly

“Finally, I admire the way Mark Jarman’s poetry worries spiritual concerns while remaining rooted in the everyday. His Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems collects poems from eight volumes, starting with 1978’s North Sea, and includes 19 new pieces that are as always brave and honest. . . . A great overview collection.”
—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

“Following the development of Jarman’s poetry and his uncompromising vision of poetry-making as sacred work, our contributor, Michelle Boisseau, found herself amazed again and again at how the unaffected discipline of Jarman’s craft helps him plumb the reaches of human experience. One of the most moving and exhilarating experiences she had this year reading poetry.”
Kansas City Star

“This volume of Mark Jarman’s selected poems represents more than thirty years of work and eight books of poetry. The collection offers a look at Jarman’s transition from writing focused on nostalgia and childhood to poems centered on faith and spirituality and the struggle inherent in those ideals.”
American Poet

“The myriad gifts of this gathering of poems confirm that Jarman is one of America’s most distinct and important voices, and prove that it is possible to sustain an original style over a long career (in Jarman’s case, an understated, wry, perspicacious, darkly complicated and formal engagement with belief and unbelief) while avoiding self-parody of a falling off of vision.”
—Lisa Russ Spaar, Image

“Jarman’s spiritual questions intersect with—in fact, are inseparable from—his profound regard for the natural world. . . . His just-released collection, Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems, includes recent poems that regard the confounding violence and beauty at the center of life.
—Maria Browning, Chapter 16

“I wish every congregation could have a Mark Jarman in its midst, because a poet’s tithe of attention and language is as valuable as the widow’s mite. Bone Fires—with its meditations on faith and doubt, hope and silence, and the sacred and desecrated fragments of God’s world—is a gift to the whole church and the whole creation.”
—Katherine Willis Pershey, The Christian Century

"Jarman’s new poems are as good as any of his career. . . . Bone Fires serves well as an introduction to the poet’s work, but it must also be welcome to pre-existing Jarman fans. Although there are only 19 new poems, they tackle the full range of his obsessions—faith, of course, but also family, history, and regret. At 58, Jarman is by no means at the end of his career, in spite of the common assumption that accompanies a book of selected works. This poet seems to anticipate this assumption and answers it in the opening poem, “How My Sister, My Mother, and I Still Travel Down Balwearie Road,” which concludes, “It is still cold, still dark, just as I said, and late. But not as late as I thought.”
—Erica Wright, ForeWord Reviews

Bone Fires is an excellent representative collection of Jarman’s work, perfect for those who are longtime fans or reading him for the first time.”
New Pages

"Jarman, who teaches at Vanderbilt University, writes about family life, memory, grace, the night sky and other mysteries divine."
—Ray Waddle, The Tennessean

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Sarabande Books; 1 edition (February 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193251192X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932511925
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,530,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Don Jartman on March 3, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am proud to say Mark is my son and I had the honor of designing the cover. There is much of personal history and in-depth observation of life. I marvel at how much has penetrated his mind over the years, I am pleased to be a part of his art.
Don Jarman
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Glynn Young VINE VOICE on July 3, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The benefit of a book of new and selected poems from what a poet has written over a lifetime is threefold:

You can see the development and progression of the poet's work from youth to maturity.

You can understand the themes and ideas the poet has grappled with over the course of decades.

And you can grasp how the poet replays and struggles with a few common themes in new, and often very different, ways and how the themes and ideas are viewed from different chronological perspectives.

And so it is with Mark Jarman's "Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems," published in 2011. The volume meets and exceeds all expectations for what a collection like this should be.

Jarman, Centennial Professor of Literature at Vanderbilt University, has previously published nine poetry collections, from 1978 to 2007. He's received numerous recognitions and prizes for his work. And in Bone Fires, we have a broad selection of four decades of poetry brought together for reading, reflection, and enjoyment.

I've read several of Jarman's collections before, but had the pleasure of encountering poems I hadn't read in this volume. Wheat they all share in common is the wondrous sense of the sacred in the commonplace, as well as the twin themes of faith or belief and doubt. A considerable number of the poems are taken from Jarman's own experiences and those of his family.

This poem, "After Disappointment," is from Questions for Ecclesiastes (1997):

To lie in your child's bed when she is gone
Is calming as anything I know. To all
Asleep, her books arranged above your head,
Is to admit that you have never been
So tired, so enchanted by the spell
Of your grown body.
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1 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Simon Barrett 'Il Penseroso' on August 3, 2011
Format: Paperback
Apart from the magnificent Unholy Sonnets, 20 in number but misleadingly not from the book of that name, this book is the purest drivel. Jarman has a mordid fixation with death*, the most natural, necessary and preordained of things and something we cheerfully mete out daily in order to live**. There's a sublime piece of inanity from Karl Barth*** to give us all pause, it's surely 'ghost in the machine' Jarman means rather than 'god in the machine' (the elephant in the room being deus ex machina, a quite different beast), we have lots of family album stuff about his two daughters as cute li'l things but nothing about them 'grown', and his take on Proverbs manages to remove all the poetry, even the exquisite 'the way of a man with a maid'! Sorry, but this is portentous attitudinizing, the modern day equivalent of 19c devotional literature with added agonizing. Want soul-food? get ahold of King James (400 this year!) Want 'all about me'? there's a myriad memoirs out there. Want poetry? you've an infinitude of choices, but George Herbert, whom Jarman celebrates, is as good as it gets (I'd balance him with the more homely Herrick). If dead poets are kept in print you can bet it's for a reason, and one that shows there's more than one way of viewing mere dissolution of the flesh. Our deeds outlive us. Depressing prospect? Get out there!!

*It is precisely the fact that our lives a/ evolve (the 'I' does not exist) and b/ are circumscribed by death that gives them meaning. I prefer Stevie Smith's take on the whole shebang (death makes life bearable!)
**Something tells me Jarman's a carnivore; most Christians are (indeed most religions are founded on sacrifice, no doubt sometimes human)
***'Prayer exerts an influence upon God's action, *even upon his existence*' This is an omnipotent being we're talking about! While this is an intriguing claim, oddly reminiscent of Tinkerbell's in Peter Pan, what gives Barth the authority to make it? Does he know something we don't?
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