Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

After the Fire

A Writer Finds His Place

2002
Author:

Paul Zimmer

After the Fire

Looking back at a lifetime of rich experience from Wisconsin’s driftless hills

After the Fire is the story of the poet Paul Zimmer’s journey from his boyhood in Canton, Ohio, and his days as a soldier during atomic tests in the Nevada desert, to his many years as a writer and publisher, and the rural tranquility of his present life. Zimmer juxtaposes timeless rustic subjects with flashbacks to key moments: his first and only boxing match, his return to the France of his ancestors, his painful departure from the publishing world after forty years. These stories are full of humor and pathos, but the real center of the book is the abiding beauty of the driftless hills, the silence and peace that is the source of and reward for Zimmer’s hard-won wisdom.

This thoughtful rumination on the important things in life will greatly interest Zimmer’s readers. . . . A gently written, enjoyable memoir.

Publishers Weekly

We all dream of finding the place we can be most ourselves, the landscape that seems to have been crafted just for us. The poet Paul Zimmer has found his: a farm in the driftless hills of southwestern Wisconsin, a region of rolling land and crooked rivers, "driftless" because here the great glaciers of the Patrician ice sheet split widely, leaving behind a heart-shaped area untouched by crushing ice. After the Fire is the story of Zimmer’s journey from his boyhood in the factory town of Canton, Ohio, and his days as a soldier during atomic tests in the Nevada desert, to his many years in the book business as a writer and publisher, and the rural tranquillity of his present life.

Zimmer juxtaposes timeless rustic subjects (tending the land, country people and their ways, the ever-changing beauty of his natural surroundings) with flashbacks to key moments: his first and only boxing match, hearing Count Basie play and discovering his lifelong love of jazz, his return to the France of his ancestors, his painful departure from the publishing world after forty years. These stories are full of humor and pathos, keen insights and poignant meditations, but the real center of the book is the abiding beauty of the driftless hills, the silence and peace that is the source of and reward for Zimmer’s hard-won wisdom. Above all, it is a meditation on the ways that nature provides deep meaning and solace, and a consideration of the importance of finding the right place.


After the Fire

Paul Zimmer is a much honored and widely published poet and essayist, the author of eight volumes of poetry. His work has received awards from the American Institute of Arts and Letters and has been selected for the National Poetry Series. He was a finalist in the essay category for the 1998 National Magazine Award, and for the past two years his writings have been Notable Essays in the Best American Essays series. He lives on a farm near Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin, and spends part of each year in the south of France.

After the Fire

This thoughtful rumination on the important things in life will greatly interest Zimmer’s readers. . . . A gently written, enjoyable memoir.

Publishers Weekly

Provides a lovely sense of the quiet nobility of rural life.

Library Journal

Zimmer is one of the best authors to write about the Kickapoo Valley, a keen observer.

Dave Wood’s Book Report

Paul Zimmer, an award winning poet, has a sharp eye, a love for the land and people of southwestern Wisconsin, and considerable talent as a writer. It succeeds as one man’s effort to make sense of his life, taking stock of where he is, where he’s been and where he’s going. We wish him well on his journey.

Virginia Quarterly Review

"I have a 1955 snapshot of myself that always amazes people. A private in the U.S. Army, I am standing in the desert. . . . Just off my right elbow, from behind a mountain, the mushroom of an atomic explosion is lifting into the blue sky as leisurely as a cumulus cloud. It rises above my head, soaring in its power. I am callow, slender, smiling my snapshot smile as if vacationing on a sandy beach."

The driftless hills have found their poet. I would compare After the Fire to the two great American books about place—Walden and Desert Solitaire. In contrast with Thoreau and Abbey, who are full of swagger, anger, and arrogance, the pervasive quality of Zimmer's work is of genuine humility. This startling contrast makes much of American literature seem like it was written by boys. In Zimmer, I am grateful to hear the voice of a full-grown man.

Barton Sutter, author of Cold Comfort

Zimmer’s work is alone—truly unique—in its being recognizably different. He has had the genius to invent a style, and a whole imaginative outlook of his own, at a time when everyone thought it was impossible.

Hayden Carruth

I don’t know anything in recent poetry that can match his shrewd humor and tonic high spirits.

Raymond Carver

The poet’s playfulness with his own persona is unflagging and stylish—there are love poems to Wanda, and other appealing spoofs, riffs, and lyrical solos. May the poet’s family increase.

Susan Sontag

I turn again and again to Paul Zimmer’s poetry to remind myself what the essence of all literary art is: the moment.

Robert Olen Butler

I’m happy reading poems by Paul Zimmer, new poems or older poems, it makes no difference since the new poems become old friends immediately.

James Tate

Zimmer’s poems are lucid and bright.

Maxine Kumin

These poems come from perception informed by sympathy, and the language is alive with verbal adventure.

William Stafford

After the Fire

Contents

Acknowledgments

Prologue: Finding Home

Strangers in Friendly Places
Trees
Sky
Poetry
Neighbors
Birds
Making Poetry
Library
Insects and Arachnids
Grasses,Fruits,Plants
Gardening
Coyotes,Foxes,Wolves
Taking a Punch
Deer
The Hunt
The Blind World
Trouble
Dogs
Old Jazz
Young Jazz
Winter
The Condition of My Faith
Spring
Summer
The Catcher
Dairy Days
Autumn