Written over the years of her son’s hospitalizations for an acute immune disorder, Hummel’s poetry takes the burdened life and imagery of illness—the hospital room, the IV tubes, the white bed—and transforms them with songs and stories of astonishing revelation. As House and Fire moves through physical landscapes—the pediatric ward, New York, California—and the emotional terrain of a painful miscarriage, it alternates eerie, radiant narratives and traditional forms to illuminate the effects of disease on the body and time. Yet the book’s greatest accomplishment is how deeply Hummel takes her readers, poem by poem, into a mother’s broken-hearted love. House and Fire proves that poetry can provide a dwelling place for powerful feeling, and the meaning that makes it burn.
“These poems come from a deep well of experience that is translated, right in front of us, into hard-won craft and exacting lyricism. At one level, this book registers the story of a beloved child’s illness. But at a deeper level, these poems are a narrative of language itself: of its vigil, its journey, its ability—even in dark times—to shelter the frailty of the body with its own radiant strengths. This is a superb and memorable collection.” —Eavan Boland
“There is real wisdom in Maria Hummel’s House and Fire, a burnished understanding of self and parenthood, what it means to be mortal through the illness of a loved one. These intricately structured, deeply moving, alchemical poems transform sorrow into something beautiful and true. Her startling use of tone and imagery is both precise and uncanny, as if the terrors of experience can be redeemed through the conditions of music and imagination. Here is a young poet in full command of her gifts. I cannot think of a more powerful first book.” —Stuart Dischell
“In this particular shadowland, the poet creates a new language from the flames of the unspeakable, the unthinkable, the unknowable. Hummel’s is that rare art of lyrical distillation that gives us meaning and sanity in a time of terror. House and Fire is crushing and remarkable.” —Michael McGriff