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380 Western American Literature Literary scholars may be unfamiliar with Steve Pyne’s work. He is an environmental historian best known for Fire in America: A Cultural History of Wildland and Rural Fire (1982) and The Ice: A Journey to Antarctica (1986), and has just received a MacArthur Foundation fellowship (“genius grant”). His six books are all distinguished by a keen understanding of the earth sciences and an ability to articulate this knowledge to the layperson in powerful and lyrical prose. Fire on the Rim contains three major themes. First, it is an autobiography recounting Pyne’s coming-of-age as a firefighter. When he began working on the North Rim fire crew he didn’t know how to find, much less fight, a wildfire; when he finally retired fourteen seasons later, he was crew foreman and occa­ sionally assigned as crew boss on major fires in the Canyon. He became a fullfledged “pyromantic.” The work follows the chronology of a fire season on the North Rim beginning in May, when snowdrifts often obstruct road access to fires, through October, the time of prescription (deliberately set) fires and termination date for seasonal employees. In telling of how wildfires are fought Pyne captures the wonderful vernacular of the trade, from “waterdogs” (fingers of groundfog often mistaken for smoke) to “widowmakers” (dead branches of a tree that may fall on a sawyer). Significant portions of the book are also devoted to nature writing, and to a critique of Park Service fire policy. Even as Pyne and his crew perform heroic work in dangerous conditions, they are still able to appreciate the grand spectacle of the Canyon. Each chapter takes the reader on an insider’s tour of the Park with vivid, precise description. The most comic portions involve accounts of “fern feelers,” the fire crew’s opprobrious term for rangers, who know and care little about fire suppression. Pyne chronicles the decline of the fire crew’s status as the Park hierarchy directs increasingly more attention, funds, and personnel to people rather than natural resource management. I read Fire on the Rim during the summer of 1989, the busiest fire season in the history of the Payette National Forest. So engrossed in it was I that I found it difficult to put down in order to look for fires. That’s the highest compliment a lookout can pay an author. DON SCHEESE University of Iowa Poets, Poems, Movements. By Thomas Parkinson. (Ann Arbor/London: U.M.I. Research Press, 1987. 340 pages, $44.95.) It is usually a lucky event when poets of maturity write about poetry, especially if it’s not their own. It is particularly lucky when such a lucid and wide-ranging a reader and writer as Thomas Parkinson does so. The 26 essays in Poets, Poems, Movements were written over a 40-year period and bring much of the ground of 20th-century poetry and poetics into focus; included are studies of Whitman, Yeats, Pound, Williams, Crane, Stevens, Winters, Reviews 381 Rexroth, Lowell, Duncan, Everson, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, Snyder, Montague, Kinsella and Heaney. As well as being a poet, Mr. Parkinson is a Yeats scholar and a culturally committed Westerner, a member of the San Francisco/Berkeley community and longtime friend and associate of many of the so-called “Beat Generation.” So his writing has a kind of sweep rarely found among more academic or philosophically insular critics: pithy or grand by turns, technical, aesthetically shrewd, culturally attuned—worldly, perhaps even planetary. His claims for Whitman, Stevens, Rexroth, Duncan, Snyder and the Irish poets are large and lucidly argued, his worries about some of what might be called the truncated aspects of Robert Lowell’s achievement are significantly considered, and his debunking of the method and measure of much contempor­ ary American poetry is Jceenly on target. Thom Gunn claims the essays on Snyder, Winters and Rexroth are “the best or among the best” so far written on these poets. And certainly the insights into the cultural and artistic milieu of the Beats, as well as the shrewd summoning of the dialectical and creative interactions of the Crane-Winters, Pound-Williams, Pound-Yeats relationships, clarify much of the spiritual...


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