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In Jonathan Maule’s elegiac and breathtaking poems, the speaker interrogates the self and ghosts from a violent youth. We see the edges of the horizon, gray and brown from perturbances of distant fires. We know from his lyrical and spacious poems, the fire lines are precarious, and in the breath of a caesura, the spark of their hungers may leap into the places of calm. Knowing this, Maule’s speaker attempts to reconcile with his own fires, yearning to read the winds of his past and seeking a way to calm the burning within. This is an extraordinary collection.            



If the best epistolary poems are compelled to intimate speech, intent on sharing the small moments of a day, and committed to the preservation of the past– then every poem in Jonathan Maule’s gorgeous collection, This Side of the Fire, is an epistolary gem. In “Letters to Red” he writes to a beloved sister brought close now only in the imagination – which is to say he’s crafted a mode of address capacious enough to withstand relentless absence. Elsewhere, he takes on the legacy of male anger, moments of raw fear, and the land’s yearning for tenderness. Maule’s work is suffused with compassion for the broken ones, sheer joy in lyric language, and a hard won belief that “everything abandoned is kin.”



In urgent candor, a speaker in Jonathan Maule’s poems says, “Every scar is a story.”  At stake in Maule’s poetry is an always-elusive wholeness, amplified by the poems’ fragmentations.  Whether gazing into the achingly complex void where a beloved used to be, or piecing together the riven memories of one’s earlier selves, Maule’s poems excavate and recover, conjure and mourn.  And still another speaker says, “I can’t be sure / any of this will reach you,” highlighting the lament that the most essential poetry comes from.  This Side of the Fire is lament of the most radiant and consoling kind.



In Jonathan Maule’s powerfully-articulated poems, people regularly find themselves steering by the dog star. But even their failings—of drugs, of violence, of pennilessness, of love—shed a remarkable light. If Dog Star illuminates raw and sometimes gorgeous hungers, it never does so at the expense of its compassion or its moral bearings. The book carries a true sheen.





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