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From the Fire Hills

From the Fire Hills

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Chad Davidson


E-book (Other formats: Paperback)


Crab Orchard Series in Poetry


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About the Book

In From the Fire Hills, poet Chad Davidson shows us an Italy that is far from the romanticized notions of sun-drenched fields and self-discovery. Instead we see a maelstrom of chaos and contradiction, a place where the frenetic pace of modernity is locked in a daily struggle with recalcitrant history.

This autobiographical collection explores the myriad ways in which Italian culture survives its own parodies and evokes a modern ferocity that harkens back to Italy’s barbarian past. As the narrator, rendered vulnerable by language, embarks on his journey, lines of location, time, and perception blur. From the siren song of Dante’s grave to the heights of San Luca, from streets where policemen with Uzis tread a hair’s breadth away from the macabre remains of Capuchin monks, Davidson’s Italy is a study in contrast between the contemporary and the classical, the sacred and the profane. Within these poems sensual and savage revelations unfold, exposing new, uncanny, and often uncomfortable spaces to explore in this well-traveled realm of Western imagination.

Throughout the volume loom “the fire hills”: the scorched mountains of Sicily in summer; the memories of Italians living near the Gothic Line outside Bologna, where the Germans dug in and received heavy bombing at the close of World War II; even the wildfires igniting the San Gabriel foothills in southern California; all the way back to the burning city of Carthage in Virgil’s Aeneid. As the ash settles and the smoke clears, we realize that what we remember is often just remains, shells, and burned out wreckage, as if there were another type of memory.


Chad Davidson is an associate professor of English at the University of West Georgia (Carrollton).  He has published two volumes of poetry with SIU Press—Consolation Miracle and The Last Predicta. In addition, he has co-authored two textbooks (with Gregory Fraser) on writing: Writing Poetry: Creative and Critical Approaches (Palgrave, 2009) and Analyze Anything: A Guide to Critical Reading and Writing (Continuum, 2012). His poems, reviews, translations, and essays have appeared in a number of journals, including AGNI, Boston Review, Chicago Review, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Virginia Quarterly Review,and The Writer’s Chronicle.


“Italy is the origin of so much that we take for granted in our art, architecture, cuisine, literature, politics, religion, history, language.  In From the Fire Hills—part pop-cultural Virgilian Guide Book, part twenty-first-century Grand Tour Baedeker—Davidson traverses this storied, incendiary terrain with what he has elsewhere called his signature ‘Bigfoot Poetics,’ as comfortable among the supper talk of cryptozoologists as it is among the pages of supermarket tabloids.”—Lisa Russ Spaar, Author of Vanitas, Rough: Poems and The Hide-and-Seek Muse: Annotations of Contemporary Poetry

“These lovely, complex poems are the notebooks of a cultural commuter, written during his journeys back and forth across the Gothic Lines that divide present from past, memory from experience, private from public. They are bravura performances, full of the nimbleness of mind and form that I have long admired in Davidson's work.”—Geoffrey Brock, author of Weighing Light

“Davidson’s powerful From the Fire Hills is a love song to California and Italy, which is to say it’s a love song to history and language: ‘Even in Italy,/I watched too much TV, conversing not with people/but with language itself,’ Davidson wryly observes. From the Fire Hills is like the beautiful old churches in Italy: ‘Like damaged clocks/they possess and are possessed by history.’ And damage, beauty, and history sing in precise and heartbreaking harmony throughout the book.”—Andrew Hudgins, author of After the Lost War and American Rendering: New and Selected Poems