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Nathan Lipps’s debut collection, Built Around the Fire, delivers a searing, austere, melancholy lyricism for the charred, sparse, parched regions of the self. Lipps’s poems are psalms, overtures, divining rods witching his readers into a deeper understanding of “the existence / of existence and becoming / lost in the etymology of bird.” Everywhere in this book, the climate crisis looms as shorelines recede and forests burn; meanwhile, Lipps returns his readers to a philosophical exploration of “the cost of living,” its bifurcating memories and split desires, its simple forgetting and birdsong.


The joy and the pains of everyday life magnify and atomize in these lithe numinous poems. Lipps is adept at opening the blinds and letting an attenuated light striate the interstices of his stanzas. Built Around the Fire provides an almost “unbearable affirmation of life,” scored with the music of spent cartridges and open meadows and the derelict, freighted, haunted spaces that constellate the American grain. The Spartan beauty of this collection will call me back to it again and again.

~Dante Di Stefano, author of Midwhistle   

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