Welcome to 2023 and the year’s first issue of Fanning the Flames. We hope you had an enjoyable Christmas and New Year. This year is shaping up to be another busy and eventful time for us at Bonfire Books. We are soon to publish the 2023 Bonfire Books Poetry Anthology, sponsored by the English Speaking Union, Victoria branch. Thank you to all of the poets who submitted to the anthology. Replies to poets have now been sent. If you have not received a reply to your submission please contact us as soon as possible.
This is a lighter than usual newsletter and we look forward to returning to the full enchilada next month.
To order titles from our catalogue please visit bonfirebooks.org
This month’s issue comprises:
Reviews of two Bonfire titles
An Illusion of Division? launched in Rome
2. Fervor de Buenos Aires (1923) by Jorge Luis Borges-review and digital exhibition by Andrea Jonathan
In January we were lucky enough to have two reviews. The first was of Clarence Caddell’s The True Gods Attend You in The Brazen Head, which can be read here. The reviewer notes that the poems
…can be by turn, difficult, energetic, and reliant upon an imaginative world inherited by Caddell. When they succeed, they succeed because Caddell unlocks their complexity, which pours out in a torrential fashion reminiscent of the metaphysical poems of John Donne. This is the case in the Blakean Initiations.
It’s always interesting to see others’ perspectives on the work we publish, and we are always grateful for the time and energy that goes into reviewing books.
The second review was of Alasdair Cannon’s Holding Patterns in the Melbourne-based Arena Quarterly, currently available only in print. Among other things, I was pleased that reviewer Kathleen Fallon noted the “good editing decisions in the placement of the essays”. Self-back-patting aside, her praise of Alasdair is effusive and well-deserved. It’s rare to find a reviewer who grasps the intention of a book so well. Some choice quotes:
The extensive footnotes in this chapter (we’re talking sub-footnotes, sub-sub-footnotes, sub-subsub-footnotes!) annoyed me at first, accustomed as I am to the restrained footnoting in academic articles. However, I came to appreciate and enjoy the almost manic experience of reading them. They provide a performative dimension, approximating one of those boozy late-night sessions when everyone’s fighting for floor space. They also most definitely signal that these essays refuse to ape the academic model. They are not mild, cautious, considered in their tone; not obsequiously doffing the hat to some academic superior in the hope of promotion; not trying to wriggle their way into the A-list of the ERA ranking system or genuflecting to some grant’s board.
Footnote 3 knocked the wind out of me.
Teaching creative writing in one of the sandstone universities for eight years, I worked with many a young man (and usually they were males) with similar personalities and issues to those described by Cannon. These young men were often confused about their masculinity and sexuality, ill-at-ease with their physicality and clumsy in their relationships, especially with the women in workshop settings. Having brought up a son myself, I grieved for them. I wish I’d had this book to refer them to. It might have eased their distress and even saved lives.
Arena Quarterly is available at good bookshops around the country and through their website.
Father Lawrence Cross’ book, An Illusion of Division?, was launched on Tuesday January 17 at the Venerable English College in Rome by Archbishop Paul Gallagher, former Apostolic Nuncio to Australia. Keep a lookout for the possibility of an additional launch event much closer to home in the near future.
2023 Titles: In addition to our inaugural poetry anthology here are some of the titles we to expect later this year:
Pinter’s Son Jim (1897) by Henry Lawson. The only full-length dramatic work of that most recognisably Australian of writers, Henry Lawson produced, Pinter’s Son Jim is a classic tale of an outback town, told in Lawson’s sentimental style. It features corrupt miners, pub jesters, a seemingly hopeless romance and a broad cast of red sand archetypes. Never staged in his lifetime, and previously available only in old and bulky complete works, this marks the first ever stand-alone publication of what should rightfully be an Australian theatrical classic.
The Gringai of Port Stephens (1929) by William Scott. William Scott grew up in Carrington, a suburb of the port city of Newcastle, NSW and catalogued a series of observations of the people of the Gringai tribe, who once inhabited the lower portions of the Hunter and Karuah river valleys. In his own words:
The lads of the tribe were my playfellows. I learned to speak their language with a degree of fluency as did my sister to a greater extent – and we mastered those difficult labials that few white men have been able to catch correctly, as is evidenced by the discordant corruption of the many beautifully euphonious native names.
To quote further, from the introduction by the original publisher, Gordon Bennett:
I felt that I had been afforded the opportunity of contributing something of especial value to the scant store of literature that deals with the lives and customs of the earliest inhabitants of a little known, but historic, part of New South Wales. It is with the hope the public will appreciate the recording of facts that might otherwise have gone unnoted that I present this booklet to the world.
The booklet is now one of the only remaining primary sources of Indigenous Australian history of the area and out of print for nearly a century. We seek to uphold the intentions of Scott and Bennett in restoring this text and making it available again in print to the public.
Albany Unravelled by Steffan Silcox and Douglas Sellick. This monumental work that expands and corrects the historical record was compiled and written to commemorate the upcoming Bicentennial of one of the nation’s most historically significant regional towns in 2026. Albany Unravelled will be published in mid-2023. In their foreword to the book, Professors Stephen Foster and Peter Spearritt write:
Douglas Sellick and Steffan Silcox have put in a prodigious amount of effort in assembling these documents, along with explanatory commentary. Both authors live in Albany and manage to convey their fascination with its rich history. They have gone to great pains to check some of the key claims about Albany’s history, often taken for granted by generations of historians, not always going back to the original sources. So, this book will stand as a well-researched collection for many years to come.
Fervor de Buenos Aires: Review & Digital Exhibition
by Andrea Jonathan, Creative Director
While spending the last few days of my trip to South America in the Argentine Capital of Buenos Aires, I acquainted myself with Borges’ first published work, the little-known book of poems titled Fervor de Buenos Aires (Fever of Buenos Aires). It was written by a young Borges, who had recently traveled to Europe and saw a new growth and vitality to the city upon his return. Here is an early version of one of the poems from Fervor, titled Carnicieria (Butcher):
Más vil que un lupanar
la carnicería rubrica como una afrenta la calle.
Sobre el dintel
la escupidora de una cabeza de vaca
de mirar ciego y cornamenta grandiosa
preside el aquelarre
de carne charre y mármoles finales
con la dejana majestad de un ídolo
(More vile than a brothel
the butcher shop marks the street like an insult
Over the doorway
the spitoon of a cow’s head
a blind stare and grandiose horns
presides over the witches’ Sabbath
of gaudy meat and final marbletops
with the remote majesty of an idol).
Borges here expresses his dramatic interpretation of the carnality of the centre of the city of his birth in the intense and bold imagery of Carniceria. Its many shambles were (and continue to be) important to the city’s commerce and cultural identity. This is contrasted with its more bourgeois and pleasant suburban outskirts as described in his poem Las Calles (The Streets) with which he more closely identifies.
Las calles de Buenos Aires
ya son la entraña de mi alma.
No las calles enérgicas
molestadas de prisas y arjetreos,
sino la dulce calle de arrabal
enternecidas de arboles y de ocasos
(The streets of Buenos Aires
Are already the innards of my soul.
Not the energetic streets
bothered by hurry and bustle,
but the sweet the neighbourhood street
made tender by trees and sunsets).
A century later, the city appears to still contain both of these elements. I have included some black and white photographs of Jorge Luis Borges at different ages for this issue’s digital exhibition.