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Praise for Bonfires

In these poems, Chris Banks has taken the world he knows and thrown it on the pyre, offered up in intimate sacrifice. Up close, the language sparks and pops, burning the fuel of the poet’s experience. From a comfortable distance, these poems cast a warming glow upon the reader. In the sense of this collection’s title, they are bonfires signalling the direction in which vigorous thoughts are moving, but they also become the flashpoints around which memorable stories are told.
—Paul Vermeersch

Bonfires manages to combine humour and breathlessness in a way that Canadian poetry seldom does. Chris Banks knows that fire takes that precious air and eats it. These are poems of unpaid bills, public transit, dust, dog piss, histamine, history, litter, longing. Banks combines beauty with a kind of trivial domestic ugliness, emerging reverent, setting us “adrift under the only sky / we will ever know.”
—Emily Schultz, Broken Pencil

Bonfires is a delightful debut with poems so accomplished they take over every page. Rarely has a first book been this impressive. Time and again, these poems made me see the world anew and many startled me with their right and wonderful phrases and images. Banks covers a wide array of subject matter and with a remarkable command, so whether he is writing about family, about the north, about traveling abroad, or the house next door he makes us care and see that everything matters, that nothing is superfluous. These poems are so good you won’t put the book down once you start."
—Robert Hilles

Bonfires tells the story of every Canadian in the twentieth century through fragmented narratives and beautiful imagery.
Imprint Online

Bonfires is Chris Banks' impressive debut. His writing is self-assured and, as a whole, the book seems like poetry that has developed over time. I sense that Banks did not rush into print, and these poems are tightly edited and carefully crafted … He manages to make even small observations seem important.
—Jay Ruzesky, Malahat Review

Banks piles image upon image, creating a landscape where “everything disassembles itself/into some new clarity” … [In the book's travel poems] what Banks does with sweet, subtle efficacy is lead the reader through his own scattered thoughts, so that while we're exposed to his disorientation, we know exactly where we are.
—John Lofranco, Books in Canada

Chris Banks offers a striking debut with his first collection, Bonfires. His poems resonate with a “pure” intention to capture a moment, and to find the elusive link between experience and its attendant cluster of emotions.

Against the backdrop of Southern Ontario are set Banks' concise explorations of meaning, navigations of memory, and rallies against loneliness. Each near-miss at capturing the truth of pain's presence, at getting down “what it is trying to say / and how it is probably right” resonates with the conflicting bravery and loss of confrontation. Over the course of the collection the voice reconstitutes itself, and consequently its reader, as its own companion. The poems are bare with self-honesty, and smoulder with stock-taking.

This is a lyric voice honed from real speech and developed by a keen ear for cadence. It has the quiet assuredness of the best lyric poets and yet is for the most part free of the practiced rhythm that inhabits and anesthetizes so much contemporary work: rather than putting voice in the service of intellectualized argument, here emotion sings, and uses craft to modulate the pace and decibel level."
—Sonnet L'Abbé, Canadian Literature