In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Caitlin Scarano’s poetry collection The Necessity of Wildfire is a poignant, musical, and necessary look at life on a damaged planet.
Ada Limón wrote of the book:
“Hungry, clear-eyed, tough, and generous, The Necessity of Wildfire is a book that creates a humming musicality out of the early sorrows and rough stones of life. Cinematic and sound-driven, these are brilliant and honest personal poems that open up to the larger universal truths. These poems are gorgeous and complex.”
1 – “Thirty” by The Weather Station
I knew I wanted this song to be the opener for this playlist. I started writing the poems in this collection around 2017, when I was thirty. It was the same year I moved to Washington state to live with my partner at the time. It was a compelling time—exploring the mountains of the North Cascades, falling in love with someone, revealing our family and childhood histories to each other. I love how this song captures the slippage of time, ambiguity of years:
“That was the year I was thirty /
That was the year you were thirty-one /
That was the year that we lost, or we won.”
2 – “Fire” by Waxahatchee
This song reminds me of the collection because of the fire and water imagery. This song is from the Saint Cloud album, which Kate Crutchfield has said was written about her decision to get sober. I got sober in 2016 and I see a marked difference in what I wrote about and how after that time.
3- “Empire Builder” by Typhoon
Typhoon remains one of my favorite bands. I read in an article in Atwood Magazine recently that “This song is for the overwhelmed.”
4 – “Sodom, South Georgia” by Iron and Wine
I’ve found this song haunting since I first heard it nearly 18 years ago. It reminds me of the haunted feeling of the south and the restrictiveness of growing up in the Bible Belt.
5 – “Astral Plan” by Valerie June
I feel this song reflects the moments of hope and pleasure that arise despite the multigenerational trauma that the collection deals with.
6 – “bones” by Deyarmond Edison
I recently discovered this song and, though I’m not sure what it is about, it makes me think of what it feels like in the lowest depths of losing someone.
7 – “Gypsy” by Fleetwood Mac
This song makes me think of my parents – what their lives might have been like when they were younger, when they met. The poems in this collection are so often about what happened after they met and married, the things that we awry. But I know there is so much of their stories that I’ve missed. I read somewhere that Stevie Nicks said: “So that’s what ‘Gypsy’ means: it’s just a search for before this all happened.”
8 – “Long Gone Now” by Jeffrey Martin
I think Jeffrey Martin might be one of the greatest songwriters of our time. I really like how he writes about the complexity of the lives of rural, working class Americans and how his songs grapple with the pressures of toxic masculinity.
This song opens:
“Sometimes I make love to other women /
While thinking about you /
And I listen to their talking /
Like a TV on in the other room.”
This sense of loss, longing, and nostalgia is what I hope this collection gets at.
9 – “Wildfire” by Mandolin Orange
This song traces the history and damage of slavery and the Civil War and its modern articulations:
“I was born a southern son /
In a small southern town where the rebels run wild /
They beat their chests and they swear “we’re gonna rise again”
I relate to this song because it captures how I feel about where I grew up in southern Virginia; something I tackle in the micro essay/prose poem “Deer Season.”
10 – “Warm Animal” by Sure Sure
This is a beautiful love song and makes me think of the specific love that is at the heart of this collection.
Originally from Southside Virginia, Caitlin Scarano (she/they) is a writer based in Bellingham, Washington. She holds a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an MFA from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. They were selected as a participant in the NSF’s Antarctic Artists & Writers Program and spent November 2018 in McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Her debut collection of poems is Do Not Bring Him Water. Her work has appeared in Granta, Entropy, Carve, and Colorado Review. You can find them at caitlinscarano.com.