This is the truth: as from a fire aflame thousands of sparks come forth, even so from the Creator an infinity of beings have life and to him return again. – Marcus Tullius Cicero
The fourth element of the Western ancients was fire, the purest, rarest and most fundamental. It is the uppermost realm in the ancient scheme, purifying and occupying the sphere closest to heaven. Fire is the transformative element, representing the active forces of life, change and destruction. We cook and forge metals with fire in acts of creation. We have also used fire to torture, to clear old forests for new growth and to cremate, incinerate, dispose of that which we do not need any more.
Fire is universally employed as a metaphor for many aspects of our existence – we speak of being consumed by fervor, love, lust or anger in fiery terms. Think of the fire implied in sudden flare-ups of temper and violence, as well as someone’s “spark,” or the light in their eyes. Fire reminds us of our vitality and soulfulness, our capacity for passion and energy.
For today’s poem, warm up your relationship with fire by free associating a short list of personal correspondences with this element. Mine follows:
strong or unbridled emotion, beliefs worth fighting for, flames, the sun, courage, vitality, blood, conflict, kindling, fever, illumination, enthusiasm, invention, the visionary, the warrior, zeal, action, exuberance, candles, fireplaces, beach bonfires, the salamander and the phoenix, power, assertiveness, consumption, excess, summer, Kata Tjuta, the Mojave, the salt flats in Death Valley, hyperactivity, volcanoes, midday, lions, bees, reptiles, topaz, cinnamon, black pepper, embers, sparks, smoke, chiles, pine sap, ginger root, nettles, spears, burns, scalds, blacksmiths, gas ovens, spiritual seeking, thoughtlessness, damage, hunger, hurry, the reflected light of the moon, fury, impulse, catastrophe, the colors scarlet, orange, violet and gold
The artist must create a spark before he can make a fire and before art is born, the artist must be ready to be consumed by the fire of his own creation. – Auguste Rodin
* Think of a time something enlightened you. Did it also consume something, such as ignorance? Innocence?
* Have your greatest passions extinguished themselves, or were they extinguished? Or do you still tend a low flame?
* Write about a time you were under trial by fire.
* Write about a time you played with fire, whether literally or not.
* Write about a time that something resisted your control and defied your intentions. Consider the ways in which accidents and damage sometimes occur when we try to closely manage something powerful.
* What fascinates you, what “lights your fire?”
* What in your life is both useful and dangerous?
* When have you been consumed? How did it transform you?
* Employ the element of fire in a poem to rid yourself of something you don’t need any more.