Winner of the Wren Poetry Prize selected by Ada Limón, Caitlin Scarano’s collection wrestles with family violence, escaping home, unraveling relationships, and the complexity of sexuality.
The Necessity of Wildfire begins, “To not harm / each other is not enough. I want to love you / so much that you have no before.” These poems chase a singular, thorny question: how does where and who we came from shape who and how we love? Judge Ada Limón says the resulting collection is “hungry, clear-eyed, tough, and generous.”
Scarano’s imagination is galvanized by the South where she grew up and by the Pacific Northwest where she now resides—floods and wildfires, the Salish Sea and the North Cascades, and the humans and animals whose lives intersect and collide there. In this collection, Scarano reckons with a legacy of violence on both sides of their family, the death of their estranged father, the unraveling of long-term relationships, the complexity of their sexuality, and the decision not to have children. With fierce lyricality, these poems—“stories without monsters, / stories without morals”—resist both redemption and blame, yet call in mercy.
“Hungry, clear-eyed, tough, and generous, The Necessity of Wildfire is a book that creates a humming musicality out of the early sorrows and rough stones of life. Cinematic and sound-driven, these are brilliant and honest personal poems that open up to the larger universal truths. These poems are gorgeous and complex.”—Ada Limón, The Carrying and Bright Dead Things
"Early in Caitlin Scarano's The Necessity of Wildfire, she writes, 'But to name / a thing is a trick.' Rather than deal in definitive statements about familial trauma and environmental disease, Scarano skillfully weaves in and out, upside down and sideways, for what ironically becomes a more accurate picture of our world. Post-confessional as their diaries of 'useless locks, secrets no one wants to hear,' these stunning poems refuse to be pinned down into a neat narrative arc, characters neither redeemed nor condemned."—Denise Duhamel, Second Story
“In Caitlin Scarano’s stunning collection The Necessity of Wildfire, we look directly at a world that has been harmed and try to understand how we survive. Evocative, meaningful, musical, and fierce, these poems are unwavering in their consideration of loss, grief, generational trauma, and the violence of personal histories and in the natural world. The Necessity of Wildfire questions, who is predator and who is prey? It holds history accountable and finds its power to reclaim—‘don’t let / that pinprick hole in your chest / grow to swallow you . . . Girl, be the flame / who leaps the highest.’ Yes, there is both beauty and pain, heartbreak and healing where sometimes what we do is hope for a ‘winter without an underside of bruises.’ The Necessity of Wildfire is a remarkable collection of poems you will not forget; these poems and this voice is uniquely and unapologetically her own. A compelling and gorgeous book you will return to again and again.”—Kelli Russell Agodon, Dialogues with Rising Tides