Jane Bonnyman
An Ember from the Fire: Poems on the Life of Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson

January 2016. 36 pp. ISBN-13 978-3-901993-53-4 (= PSPS 16)
£4.50 (+ 1.00 p&p), €5.50 (+ 1.00 p&p), US$ 8.00 (+ 1.50 p&p)
 
"An Ember from the Fire is an exciting first collection lit up by the poet's vivid conjuring of place. Jane Bonnyman's bright, bold poetry is suffused with colour but she has a gift too for the odd angle, for what is left unsaid, for getting under the skin of her characters. In poems filled with sights, noises, people, above all with emotions, Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson emerges as the central figure in this story of a life lived through place. A miniature jewel of a biography."

Gerrie Fellows

"In An Ember from the Fire, a sequence of poems based on the life of Fanny Van de Grift, especially concerning her marriage to Robert Louis Stevenson, Jane Bonnyman provides a series of vignettes which are quiet, yet unsettling, rich, and evocative. The quality of the writing is delicate and finely controlled. The poems also show the central character's strength and resilience; and the shifts of circumstance and personal ambition between Grez and Fontainebleau, Napa and elsewhere, and the wispy summits of Mount Vaea are beautifully conveyed. A very impressive first pamphlet."
Alexander Hutchison


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Table of Contents


Excerpts from An Ember from the Fire

Telegraph Hill

Tiny houses
cling to the hillside -
each storey climbs
the slope in steps.
White walls, balconies flimsy,
as if made from cloth and paper -
they breathe in the wind,
puffing out like bellows,
while grass-grown streets flow
in green veins to the sea.

A simple trust in God,
he tells her, building homes
so close to the edge.
From their precipice
she looks down to the Bay.
In the distance a steamer
soundlessly drags its watery tail
under the Golden Gate,
and smoke clouds scatter before
strong cables, steel towers.
 

Natura Morta

When a boy shot four parrots
in the bush, brought them
to her to cook, she studied
the vivid green of their wings,
their tired eyes, and thought
they'd be better in a cage
with wooden swings
than resting on the table,
their soft plump bellies
so close to the kitchen knife.


Reviews of An Ember from the Fire


"[...] Bonnyman is a painter, an adroit dauber of colour [...] the narrative of Fanny Stevenson's life is a hugely adventurous one. This beautifully-researched, well-executed volume is a treat, and ends, poignantly, with R L Stevenson's own dedication to this most remarkable of intrepid women."

Penny Boxall, Sabotage Reviews, 2 April 2016.
Click here to read the full review.


"Jane Bonnyman's first pamphlet, An Ember from the Fire: Poems on the Life of Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson, is a gothic wonder of a book, an adventurous, swashbuckling exploration of an extraordinary life. [...] Bonnyman imbues the borrowed-consciousness of her heroine with believable psychological depth [...] It is a testament to Bonnyman's skill that she is able to form a coherent, stand-alone narrative out of so few, taut lines."

Bethany W. Pope, Magma Poetry Blog Review 45, 4 April 2016.
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