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. Edward Hirsch has said, "Jarman's poetry is God-haunted. ... [He] embraces paradox and treats contradiction, to use Simone Weil's phrase, as a lever for transcendence."
Bone Fires includes familiar works, such as the long poems "Transfiguration" and "Unholy Sonnets" (from Questions for Ecclesiastes) set against new poems, which open the collection. The new poems often employ narratives of the daily—the poet watching a neighbor's widow mowing her lawn, listening to his mother activate a telephone prayer chain, even snoring—to fuel philosophical inquiry or an awareness of change and the passage of time. In the new poem "Dispatch from Devereux Slough," Jarman writes "And the night herons brood in their heronry like yoga masters, each balanced on a twig. / The world has changed. The news will take some time to get here."
This book review originally appeared in American Poets.