This is a wonderful book. First, there's the poem itself, which combines Christine Evans' embeddedness in the landscape of the western tip of North Wales (`I have watched a large round fish / - skate or dab - abandoned on the beach / sinking, infinitely slowly, down, merging / with wet sand, as a star's absorbed / into the dawn sky. This writing feels like that...') with her international consciousness, which takes in Homer's Odyssey, Michael Faraday the blacksmith's son who became discoverer of electricity, the disaster of Chernobyl (`Each year in spring the scientists who survive / make a pilgrimage or knowledge-quest / to that Dark Tower in its deserted landscape'), and the dying of old Bessie in hospital (`the light / abruptly freezing in her eyes, setting / as reflection, laughing blue / turning to the moon's bald stare').
Then there's her journal of writing the book, which gives unique insights into the passionate commitment of a poet to her art - this whole, huge poem was written in just over a month - and the intricate work of word-choice, word-change, the careful weighing of each syllable and reference. `Seeing the word `scritch' [of a match] on the screen just now, my son mocks, makes me wonder if it is silly, an affectation. Want to suggest the astringent sound of the match, its sharp smell, challenging the dark... Why not a sequence of short pieces? Why the long poem?'
Last, there are the `spin-off' poems - poems written around the same time, connected with the Candle and taking flight in strands away from it. ...No, there's still another gift of the book: a kind of summary, a list of the Seven Steps Christine Evans took to write the poem, with titles like `Forays', `Signposts', `Looking Back'.
`Burning the Candle' is a poem which will increase your understanding of `the way light falls' and of the connections between different eras and different landscapes of the world. Taken together with the journey and the added poems, it's a treasure for poetry-lovers and for students of poetry alike. I know of no other work which offers not only the poem itself, but a deep reflection on itself and on the art of poetry.
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