Poems from the Lytton fire
A passionate personal account of the loss of a community, Burning Sage is a deeply touching, poignant and timely debut.
On the day that Lytton, BC, burned to the ground, Meghan Fandrich ran from the flames. She saw the village turn into a black pillar of smoke, and went home after a month-long evacuation to its ashes. Her house, on the edge of the fire, was saved; her community and her small business were not. Life as she knew it was gone, and somehow, in spite of the trauma and the ongoing onslaught of natural disasters, she had to keep going. Living. Surviving.
Burning Sage shares Meghan’s deeply personal story of the fire, the ensuing trauma, and the path out of it. But it is also a human story, a universal story, of loneliness, fragility and beauty. The poems follow the arc of shock, fear, and anger, and the impossibility of single parenting in a burned-up town. They tell of a connection, a love, and the way that feeling understood can help us understand ourselves. The poems in Burning Sage share a vivid portrait of grief and heartbreak and, ultimately, of healing.
Through a compelling sequence of poems uniting narrative and imagistic intensity, Meghan Fandrich’s debut volume of poetry, Burning Sage, awakens outsiders to the fear, exhaustion, and numbness caused by the traumatic Lytton fire of 2021. By exploring human relationships, both within her family and throughout her community, Fandrich offers a rare perspective on living in the wake of an inferno, and the possibility of emerging anew.
—Susan McCaslin, whose sequence of poems “Cariboo Fires, 2017” appeared in her volume of poetry Heart Work (Ekstasis Editions, 2020)
“Burning Sage is an achingly beautiful testament of survival in the face of devastation from the climate catastrophe we are all facing. It is a ferociously honest account of unimaginable loss and the relentless terror a survivor faces as they relive the worst day of their lives over and over, while struggling as a single parent for meaning, love and courage in a cynical and uncertain world. Meghan gives voice to the heartache of yearning to return home to a time and a place of safety and connection, to the rage of being made victim and rendered helpless by corporate greed and indifference, to the aching memory of the beautiful little village that lives on only in our memories, dreams and nightmares.”
—Kevin Loring, actor, Artistic Director–Indigenous Theatre, National Arts Centre of Canada, playwright, Where the Blood Mixes
“Burning Sage is an unflinching, honest and compelling collection that everyone should read; it offers so much for all of us trying to connect with ongoing climate disasters that are affecting more people every year. For anyone working in the aftermath of disasters, this work highlights the importance of trauma-informed practices. While sharing her healing journey, Meghan gives us a glimpse into the natural beauty, love and connection that makes her community a special place to live.”
—Francesca Fionda, journalist
“Meghan Fandrich describes the devastation and loss in Lytton in the form that works best—poetry. These poems remind us that the best of small communities comes from hospitality and conversation and mutual support and love, and how even when a physical town disappears, that remains. But the pain of the loss and the depth of the damage goes deep, deep. We need to know this place of hurt, Meghan takes us to the heart of it.”
—Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich and the Islands, and co-Leader of the Green Party of Canada
“This debut collection about the devastating fire in Lytton pushes the reader into the flames. Beyond photographs and news clips, beyond anyone’s reporting, Meghan Fandrich’s poems make the nightmare palpable. Hers is an insider’s story told with passion and skill, not one word wasted. I feel privileged to have gone on this journey with her.”
—Lorna Crozier, author of Through the Garden: A Love Story (with Cats) and After That
“Meghan Fandrich distills the moments, extracts the essence from flame and ash and from the gentle touch of a small child. If you want to know what it felt like to be in Lytton during and after the fire of 2021, I highly recommend this debut collection of poems.”
—Claudia Cornwall, author of British Columbia in Flames
“Burning Sage offers intimate insight into a terrifying experience—living through the Lytton fire—and Meghan’s personal journey afterwards, one of discovery, surrender and, ultimately, acceptance. The awareness that community is resilience shines through.”
—Dr. Sarika Cullis-Suzuki, The Nature of Things