“These are poems of quotidian life—childrearing, commuting, working—in a place (the San Diego backcountry) where the question has become, ‘How far off is the fire right now?’ Danger and loss flicker in peripheral vision. Fire Season takes a lot into account. It feels honest, important, and perfectly calibrated.”
Occasioned by the birth of a first child and originally spoken aloud into a digital audio recorder on the poet’s long commute between the art museum where he worked and his home in a neighborhood burned in the Witch Creek Fire of 2007, each of the poems in Patrick Coleman’s first book resists the confusions of twenty-first-century parenthood, marriage, art, and commerce. By turns conversational and anxious, metaphysical and self-mocking, celebratory yet permeated by an awareness of life’s flickering ephemerality, Fire Season is a search for gratitude among reasons to be afraid—and proof that a person can pass through the fires and come out the other side alive.
“Fire Season is a gathering of prose poems that are smart, funny, tender, and illuminating. It is clear that we are with a writer who enjoys putting sentences together, who delights in playing rigorously with the language, crafting poems with a palpable and persistent sweetness. But there is also fire. Fire in the near distance. Fire on the hills. These poems are made of that fire. This is a powerful, strange, and beautiful book.”
“These quiet poems are composed of affection, worry, disbelief, and wonder, and occur often serenely amid the confounding ironies of American life. Setting these snapshots of our contemporary world beside perspectives taken from historical paintings is a subtle and moving gesture. The visual art here provides a complement and a counterpoint to the unsettled textures of the poems, suggesting that even in our current disposable reality something of value may yet endure.”
“Fire Season becomes sound track to what’s outside and inside the windshield in a moving continuum with daily action, daily thought, daily daily.”
“The poems in Fire Season are full of friction—common word touching common word … They are also philosophical and personal. Patrick Coleman is tuned in to landscape, language, and humanity, each poem casual as office talk and heightened by their proximity to art and by the force of the sentence—such arresting sentences.”
—Carol Frost, judge for the Berkshire Prize
“…a superb debut composed via audio recording during his commute to and from his job at the San Diego Museum of Art. The book features a rich mix of ekphrastic, landscape, and self-reflective prose poems…. Coleman artfully captures the transcendent moments within a busy life when ‘unfocused desires squeeze through the seams.’” —Review in Publishers Weekly.
“What started out as a sort of commuter therapy became kind of a miracle…. For readers, the prize is the thrill of seeing everyday experiences transformed into something that glows like art but feels like life.” —Column/interview in the San Diego Union-Tribune.
“…captures the anxiety, the uncertainty, the unknown…” Interview with KPBS Midday Edition.
“The notion of 'there’s always a fire somewhere' works in many contexts: the pressure of being a new parent, the collapse of stable governance, the growing calamity of climate change. Yet Coleman’s poems are oddly soothing." —Review in San Diego CityBeat.
“But there’s also a cycle to wildfires. They’re a natural part of the California ecology. The year after the 2007 fire, the wildflowers were explosive, surreal — unleashed by heat and all the newly open space. Now, 11 years later, most of the plant and animal life has returned. Which is great. But all that plant life, to a certain person, might rightly be called fuel. Just this year we had two fires a quarter mile from where I live, and I raced home from where I work, an hour away still but now at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego, to throw a few handfuls of possessions in the car, pack the kids up, and get out of there in case the winds came up or CAL FIRE couldn’t control it. And climate change is only making it worse. It’s a reality we live with, and as I worked with it in my mind and writing, it began to feel like a way to make sense of reality.” —Interview with Ryan Teitman, LA Review of Books