Real Fire began when Richard Baron sent me images of his fire photos.  I have known Richard since our youthful knock around days in NYC.  He was then, and remains, a brilliant black and white “street” photographer.  The fire photos were unlike anything of Richard’s I’d seen before.  They were in color (very muted) and shot indoors.  Also, visually, I was struck by their abstract painterly and sculptural qualities.  They seemed like the perfect point of departure for a series of poems on the element of fire.
      I had been wanting to write a series of pieces on fire ever since reading Gaston Bachelard’s
The Psychoanalysis of Fire, which is probably my favorite book of literary criticism, if you can call it that; I prefer to think of Psychoanalysis as more of a book of meditations on poetry and fire – the ideal book for a poet whose astrological element is fire. Also, one of the most spellbinding moments of my life continues to be a dusk-to- dawn observation of a fire in a wooden stove in a cabin in northern Ontario.  The observation was conducted under the influence.  Pure magic.
      I asked Richard if he would consider a collaboration – his sculptural photographs of flames paired with my investigations – mystical, ethnographic, romantic – on the element.  Richard liked the idea, and
Real Fire is the result.
    —Janet Hamill


The moths were so big they had faces.  I heard
the universe charging at my back.  The light principle
was so winded.  In collapsing it gave birth to new life

I heard the blood pulsing in the stars.  I heard
the grinding teeth of titanium. I heard the night chanting
rain, rain, rain.  Simulating the lapping of water
against my walls.  I heard the sheer numbers
of the night.  In its dark belly a rhythm of desperate sleep

So forgive me for walking away with the flame



Each spark of fire is captivated by love.  In the end it wants to be held
in the palms of wind.  Wreaths of roses speak of the four feathered snakes

Gliding and swooping down on the proud breasts of flames.   A dawn to dusk
storm wrapping its teeth around each petal.  When the wind is grave

You hear the moaning of wood and stone.  Once rigidly hard



Some nights ashes lay the ground
unseen     the divided shrine     bones
and scattered relics     a  bundle
weighing a thousand years     on the lawn
outside the house
afflicted passions rub their bellies
in the four cardinal corners
what sense does it make     to start a conversation
when beginning is calling

 Some nights are piles of aromatic kindling
waiting to ignite

 Sweet bird     flushed with arrival
how high can you fly     in a lifespan
a ready nest is built
flame up     in desert crimson
shitting seeds to multiply
coded letters on the stars

 Unseen     serrated blades     torn shirts
and dresses     dry as dust     the vestige
of a murmuring heart    
hear now the last blood stones set in tiles
on the floor     the echoing green
beneath  spider veins     outlining
canyons too deep
to cross on a sighing bridge  

 Some nights are cords of symphonic timber
waiting to be torched

 Sweet bird     flushed with arrival
how high can you fly     in a lifespan
a ready nest is built

 Flame up
flame up
flame up




Richard Baron has been photographing since 1970. He is oft-published and exhibited. His work is represented in many collections, including at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Houston Museum of Fine Art, the Museum of the City of New York, the New York Public Library, and the Samuel Wagstaff Collection at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Baron currently is living Santa Fe and working on a project titled "The Geometry of Empire." To see more of Richard Baron's work, visit his website at baronrichard.com.

Janet Hamill is the author of six books of poetry and short fiction: Troublante , The Temple, Nostalgia of the Infinite, Lost Ceilings, Body of Water – which was nominated for the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Prize – and Tales from the Eternal Café – named one of the “Best Books of 2014” by Publishers Weekly.

Janet’s seventh book, Knock , is forthcoming in fall 2016 from Spuyten Duyvil.

After three decades in New York City, Janet now resides in New York’s Hudson Valley. Late in the witching hour, you can hear her lady-mystic-call; Fire-Janet, Janet-of-the-Lava-Seas, begging the flames to come join her in an almsgiving to the Buddha-spirit of cats.