Fire: Sparking Imagination Since Two Million B.C. | Connecticut Public Radio

Fire: Sparking Imagination Since Two Million B.C.

Oct 23, 2018

Things burn: Our environments, resources, and all forms of monument to self. And since the beginning, so too has our imagination. The inspiration humans have drawn from fire throughout the millennia is as impressive as it is immeasurable. Why fire occupies such an elemental place in the creative wellsprings of our consciousness is certainly a debate to had.

Some say it's owed to the fact that of all creatures, we alone possess the ability to create and control fire. Others say it's rooted in our primordial relationship with fire as being the key to our evolution and dominion over the natural world. And some believe that our connection to fire is wrought from the same stuff that binds us spiritually to the divine.

Our anagogic affinity for fire may never be fully explained. And yet its presence is plain to see. Fire imagery abounds in music, literature, art and scripture. It thrives at the center of ceremony and ritual around the world. The deification of fire among cultures dates back thousands of years and we see it too, in our own, personal musings. 

How viscerally we associate fire with sentiments of passion, anger, transformation, purity and even evil itself. How many metaphors and similes has the poet penned with fire in mind throughout the years?

They say at its center, fire burns hottest. So stand back and listen close, for in this hour we journey straight to its core. It's one heck of a hot topic and we're guessing it'll spark your interest.

Here's the full reading of Charles Wright's poem, "A Short History of the Shadow":

Listen to Gary Snyder reading his poem, "Wildfire News":

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  • Steve Pyne- Author of Moved by Fire: History’s Promethean Moment and Fire: A Brief History. Steve has lectured and taught on many aspects of Man’s relationship with fire including fire ecology, fire symbolism and fire ceremonies around the globe
  • Christian Tryon- Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University. Professor Tryon is a Paleolithic archaeologist interested in the behavioral evolution of Homo sapiens
  • Gary Snyder- Professor of English at U.C Davis and professional poet. Gary has published 18 books with his newest collection of poems, titled This Present Moment, coming out this May
  • Eric Rabkin- Professor Emeritus of English Language and Literature, and Professor Emeritus of Art & Design at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • Charles Wright- The current U.S. Poet Laureate. Mr. Wright Was kind enough to do a reading of his poem, A Short History of the Shadow for today's show. Mr. Wright's newest book is titled Caribou. The paperback  will be out this coming March


Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show, which originally aired on January 14, 2018.