cover image The Use of Fire

The Use of Fire

Reynolds Price. Atheneum Books, $19.95 (143pp) ISBN 978-0-689-12109-8

Like the great blue heron returning each year to its pond, Price ( New Music ) here makes a difficult personal journey in formidable weather--and only with great effort is he able to return to his peaceful starting point. The journey, told as a poetic chronicle, recounts the author's pain and internal conflicts stemming from the unexpected urgency of a medical condition that paralyzed his lower body in 1984. The tender, sometimes agonized collection recalls his days as a student at Oxford, travels in Europe, writing at home in North Carolina, family, friends and lovers past and present. As his inner turmoil dissipates, Price ``burns a silent / Praise of thanks to what or who has worked such peace.'' Most gracefully in sections I and III, his imagination ventures outward in hymns for friends, elegies and love poems, some inspired by Rilke or Holderlin. All are tributes to Price's clarity and his sensitivity to the nuances of nature; the poems celebrate the human conditions of love, death, struggle, joy and, ultimately, serenity. (Dec.)