“Devil in the Wind: Voices from the 2009 Black Saturday Bush Fires,” is a book of poetry by Australian poet, Frank Prem, about horrific wildfires across the Australian state of Victoria in 2009. The preface includes descriptions of the physical and trauma effects in the victims’ own words. As the book moves along, the poems describe in graphic and statistical detail the scope of the damage to people, places, and things during the fires.
Much of the format of Frank’s poetry is stream of consciousness, as expressed from various perspectives, including rescue personnel, those manning the fire watch towers, those who outwitted death, the loved ones of those who didn’t survive, and witnesses of horrific pain and suffering. Frank effectively captures the angst and dread of being trapped in what amounts to a living hell for every living thing trapped in a million acres burning.
About twenty percent at the end of the book relates the lingering affects of the trauma after the fires were gone. It talks about survivors returning to their properties, cities existing only as coordinates on a map, and children struggling to get beyond what they experienced during the fires. It is difficult to read what the fire investigation reveals.
Although the book is finished, Frank continues to learn of others’ stories in connection with the fires. He says, “and perhaps it [capturing the stories] must go on to ensure we remember to ensure survivors can still tell their tales and to ensure there is a place of safekeeping a refuge for these stories forged in hell.” –Frank Prem. Devil in the Wind (Kindle Locations 1677-1683). Wild Arancini Press.
Standout poems for me were, “like a duck on a lake,” “portraits in green and gold,” “the strength of a truckie,” ”kinglake still,” and “old man roo returns.”
Final impressions: While, and after, reading Frank’s poems, the many haunting images contained within the poems add up to a profound impact on me as the reader. What Frank says about “ensur[ing] there is a place of safekeeping… for these stories forged in hell” is both noble and vital. The scribes preserve precious realities that link us to what it means to be sentient creatures on planet earth. It’s important for humans, now and in the future, to remember these stories.