In this exquisite book-length sequence, Ellen Hinsey explores the boundary between poetry and metaphysics, and the intimate bonds between morality and mortality. A modern examination of the contemplative life, The White Fire of Time draws on a breadth of cultural knowledge and a deep understanding of the wisdom of the body. The poems in this singular collection are visionary meditations which investigate, as Hinsey writes, ‘that wild chaos where life’s power endures’.
The work is in three sections: The World, meditations on the ordinary, the daily life of the body and its place in nature and time; The Temple, investigations into language and the ethical life; and The Celestial Ladder, in which poems trace the soul’s spiralling journey through desire, love, grief and endurance. Each section mirrors the structure of the whole, with poems following specific forms, serving to create a symphonic rhythm in which details, metaphors and meanings build and interweave.
‘This is one of the most intellectually and spiritually ennobling books I have encountered, reminiscent of the writings of the great works of cosmogony and mysticism. It is the work of a true poet, whose sense of line, cadence and tonality, is unsurpassed among poets of her generation’ – Carolyn Forché.
‘The White Fire of Time is a cantata, a poem of praise, resonating with the Dante of The Divine Comedy and the Milton of Paradise Lost. The strengths of this collection are its immediacy and the care, precision and purity of its diction. It is rare that such lapidary language accrues such music’ – Honor Moore.
‘The White Fire of Time is a stunning quest for essential things, a pursuit that goes courageously against the current of contemporary American poetry’ – Adam Zagajewski.
‘Ellen Hinsey has manifested a range of concern and a sensitivity to larger human issues which is the sine qua non of authentic poetry. She has found a way to be both truthful and original, to make poems which are absorbing and enlightening, historically pertinent and philosophically urgent…to our great good fortune they succeed in their unlikely ambitions’ – C.K. Williams.
Ellen Hinsey: Update on the Descent
Ellen Hinsey reads four poems from Update on the Descent, the companion volume to The White Fire of Time. This film by Pamela Robertson-Pearce was made at the Jerwood Centre next to Dove Cottage in April 2009 when Ellen Hinsey was giving a reading for the Wordsworth Trust to launch her latest collection. The poems she reads in this video are 'Transcript', 'A Concise Biography of Tyranny', 'Update on the Last Judgement' and 'Interdiction'.
North America: Wesleyan University Press