cover of book

From the Fire Hills
by Chad Davidson
Southern Illinois University Press, 2014
Paper: 978-0-8093-3323-3 | eISBN: 978-0-8093-3324-0
Library of Congress Classification PS3604.A946A6 2014
Dewey Decimal Classification 811.6


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.

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