icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Democracy of Fire


"A thread of elegy runs through Democracy of Fire, Susan Cohen's wise and wonderful new poetry collection. Tenderly, precisely, these poems record a litany of the world's ongoing losses: "Greenland's ice sheet pooling like tears into the ocean," elephants, beetles, democracies, "languages left behind like cloaks," and "our own bones interred without ceremony." Cohen shows us our interconnectedness, a reminder of both the beauty and value of what's at stake. Yet, paradoxically, this vision makes Democracy of Fire a deeply comforting book. Of the planet Mercury she writes, "…a pinprick ablaze for longer than our species will exist…Between us and it, there's a distance far beyond air, and beyond despair."

—Ellen Bass, Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets & author of Indigo


"At this historical, political and ecological moment, with democracy and our earth aflame, could there be a more timely or relevant collection than Susan Cohen's powerful, wise and deeply humane book of poetry, Democracy of Fire? Here, the many losses we experience both daily and across time—losses both cultural and personal—are mitigated by the act of memory and a faith in, well, the facts of our world and our capacity for intimate reckonings. Once again, Susan Cohen has shown herself to be one of the most compassionate recorders of our complicated times."

—David St. John, Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets & author of The Last Troubadour: Selected and New Poems


"Susan Cohen shows how science and poetry can interact, not in opposition, but with insight and wonder. Attentive to visual detail, these poems are rhythmically alive and play with language, finding "inside languages, a lung and its lunge for breath." They create micro-arenas where human limitation, adaptation, evolution, and climate change are handled with care. Replete with dense, rich sounds—"marbled salamander, Cranwell's horned frog, newt with neon stripes"—they are also willing to embrace mystery: "if you can learn to love the fist of darkness, let it close around you."

—Arthur Sze, winner of the National Book Award & author of The Glass Constellation: New and Collected Poems


Democracy of Fire was a finalist for the Washington Prize, Wilder Prize, and Richard Snyder Prize.