The St. Lawrence Book Award Winner


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ISBN: 978-1-62557-932-4

Necessary Fire

Publication Date: April 2015


Necessary Fire, KMA Sullivan’s debut collection and winner of the St Lawrence Book Award, opens a window into the world of a woman who is mother, partner, daughter, and lover. Surprising in the variety of moment, wrenching in detail, grounded in grief and care, this collection moves from the innocence and bravery of a young son coming out in a world set to crush him, to playing hymns so a dying mother can plan her funeral service, to witnessing the breaking of a son who had been abused and abandoned in earlier years and cradling an adopted daughter long enough for her to find her own voice, all the while experiencing the fullness and desire and ebullience that comes from loving others and being loved without limit. Necessary Fire offers a deluge of image and emotion and experience, a deluge that only a heart on fire can survive.


“‘Bones can straighten with memory,’ Sullivan writes. And it is with such resilience and faith in the personal that Necessary Fire achieves itself as a fierce and tender book of questions-questions that propel us beyond our singular and limited certainties toward the myriad lives inherent in language. These poems complicate, expand, and disarm in both their joys and contradictions. And by gazing through their flames, we are rewarded, perpetually, with the most human versions of ourselves-a reminder of how ‘necessary’ we can be when ‘loving another…on the mouth, the way we were meant to.’ These poems are gifts we have and will always deserve.”

-Ocean Vuong, Night Sky With Exit Wounds

Early on in Necessary Fire, the persona states ‘I make sense of things.’ It is true, KMA Sullivan’s collection makes sense of the seemingly senseless and tells the story of a life lived beyond the scope of feeling to the sort of listening that becomes an almost angelic empathy. The people and things in this book are good things and they have lived life to its fullest boundary. We can listen to them and start to see that this life is one filled with darkness, sure, but also family, completeness, the divine, and love.”

-Dorothea Lasky, Rome and Thunderbird

These are poems that care for their reader. It is not a pandering or sweet tenderness; rather, the voice in the book means to affirm or patch the very truths we crack against, bodily, on a daily basis. An added delight is that all of the work in this brave, journeying collection ends somewhere completely unexpected yet perfectly attuned to its unique cosmic trajectory. Each poem asks a question and then, almost in spite of itself, admits to knowing the answer all along.”

-Emily Kendal Frey, Sorrow Arrow and The Grief Performance

In KMA Sullivan’s debut collection, Necessary Fire, she writes, ‘I want to wonder about wonder.’ The book is full of wonder in all senses of the word. These poems explore the joys and the agonies of family life and the role one individual voice can play in such a chorus, when ‘even the mail is more than I can carry.'”

-Rebecca Hazelton, Fair Copy and Vow

About the Author

KMA Sullivan

KMA Sullivan is the author of Necessary Fire, winner of the St Lawrence Book Award (forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press, 2014). Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Boston Review, Southern Humanities Review, Forklift, Ohio, The Nervous Breakdown, Gargoyle, diode, and Anti-, among others. Recent essays have appeared in The Rumpus, The Good Men Project, and Nailed. She has been awarded residencies in creative nonfiction and poetry at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Vermont Studio Center, and Summer Literary Seminars and she is the editor-in-chief of Vinyl Poetry and the publisher at YesYes Books.

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