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Author: Jan Verberkmoes

Publisher: Fonograf Editions (2021)

Firewatch lives in the porous recesses of recollection and the uncertainty felt when re-entering traumatic psychological and physical territories. White space as the natural silence of the page—the indefinable, yet present matter that pushes the text into place—permeates the collection as a kind of repression. Italicized fragments wind through the poems as an other-worldly tether that binds the speaker to the subconscious voices of its othered self. These elements grow together into a larger portrayal of the speakers' evolving relationship to the quiet violence of deterioration, to a threatening and threatened landscape, and to the fractures between perception and comprehension into which they slip.

"Jan Verberkmoes’ first book is a book I’ve awaited for years. Here is a lyricism of such music—and yet the music is simultaneously subtle and overwhelming, feinting and always before one—such music as is capable of expanding the possibilities of lyricism itself for those who encounter it. Firewatch will surely have a place among the best debuts of the decade."

–Shane McCrae

"In Jan Verberkmoes’ spirited new book, the caesura does so much work that one can only think about space and its magic. Fragments, lines, and phrases hum and buzz and flower here, all purposely opening into a larger order. Firewatch is a great read."

–Peter Gizzi

"Jan Verberkmoes’s Firewatch is a hymn and a reckoning, an elegy for both a world and a self not yet gone, but perpetually threatened with disappearance: Lake beds of ash, empty pastures,  what’s in the distance “shorn and ready for burning” as “war emerges from the trees.” In this collection, what is dreamed becomes tangible, what is suffered takes root, and the interior landscape is rendered in earth and bone and air: Real as the meadow grass. Real as “three links of spine. Real as night, “traceless / on the waterskin as it sheds from the mountain.” The boundaries between the body and the world dissolve. 

Shot through with both burning and honey-light Firewatch is, somehow, at once lush and spare. Haunted, hunted, but never faithless, it’s essential reading for anyone who feels themselves living in a time of peril and still awed by beauty: caught somewhere 'between alarm and song.' I return to this book like scripture."

–Molly McCully Brown