In Ash, Gloria Mindock writes a gritty, beautifully haunting collection of poetry. Ash is what remains behind after destruction, ruin, death, and burning. Similarly, the poems in this collection are what will remain. Fight the shadows and wade through the darkness on a path paved by Mindock's vivid imagery, stark language, and dynamic voice, all of which make for a most memorable experience. Now more than ever, we need these poems. With the utmost economy of words, skillful syntax, and emotional connections, each poem reverberates into the depths of your consciousness. Dark, intense, and wholly unique, Ash, by Gloria Mindock is what you've been waiting for- a collection of poetry that consumes and smolders. Are you ready?
-Renuka Raghavan, author of Out of the Blue and The Face I Desire
In Gloria Mindock’s powerful new book, the flames of love die out and the ashes linger until they dissolve into air. The body is hostage, in charred relics of failed intimacies—The burnt-out ends of smoky days (T.S. Eliot). There’s beauty in the truth of Mindock’s words and images: Things got smokier, battling the embers with//false waters. And there’s hope: Not everyone believes in destruction.// All the heart wants is to beat. Above all, these poems radiate feeling, compassionately aware, attuned to a world of broken love that is burned beyond recognition, the ashes drifting and settling: how much sorrow can this heart take?// There is never an answer. Ash sears and sings.
-Dzvinia Orlowsky, author of Bad Harvest
Gloria Mindock is a poet with singular vision: in Ash, a human heart is rolled out, then baked, then thrown to the birds; broken crucifixes are shoved into junk drawers and gather dust; a spurned/murdered woman turns into a beautiful plant that gives her ex-lover a rash. With mordant, Pinter-esque wit, Mindock explores just how far love, and even human decency, can unravel—to the point of arson, to the point of war.
Ash begin with a series of poems about lethal house fires that may be literal or metaphorical (“my skin was burned by your compulsion to be famous”), then expands to pinpoint the similar essence of human cruelty that enables soldiers to kill. As the narrator of “Doomed by the Numbers” explains: “the fact is people will still go on brutally/killing each other./Who will take my place and write about it?”
Ash concludes with an engaging, Rabelaisian roundelay of voices—mini-plays, summed up in just two stanzas, about complicated relationships between two people.
Once again, with Ash, Mindock proves herself to be unafraid of the dark. She is truly a leading, contemporary master of the edgy.
-Karen Friedland, author of Places That Are Gone and Tales from the Teacup Palace.
Passionate and observant, Gloria Mindock is a tragic poet. Her books are wounds revisited. She knows that nothing, never heals.
“With a rolling pin in my hand, I roll your heart out flat… stop it from beating. The redness of blood turns to wax, sticky while wet.” (Baked)
She senses the pain of the world in her being.
“The void looms deep, scorched like the desert blowing aimlessly.” (Exit)
As her latest book Ash attests without doubt, Gloria is both a warrior and a martyr. Her words are swords that slowly transform into tears.
Her anger at life’s injustice is mighty, but mighty is her generosity and her openness towards repair, harmony and universal peace. A must-read Ash conducts the reader through thorny labyrinths of pain and despair, allowing now and then a glimpse of ultimate resolve and liberation in verses of a rare beauty:
“…but gravity is about to free me into space… People will look at me day and night and ask, “what is it?” There is no control over what happens. The cathedral is high and my freckles fell on the floor as I left. Paleness now, that no one sees, but in the universe, I will be a prism.” (Gravity)
“…A hunger surrounds us, dust gathers, and is wiped off, space evading all this as songs of the wind come through the window and we all hum.” (Room)
-Flavia Cosma, author of In the Arms of the Father, Val-David, QC
Life can be extremely dark for many people. For Gloria Mindock that darkness is expressed in her wonderful poetry. Her previous books include I Wish Francisco Franco Would Love Me, Whiteness of Bone, Nothing Divine Here and Blood Soaked Dresses, each with its own degree of the dark side that readers of her poetry expect and respect.
In Ash, her latest volume of dark poetry Mindock exceeds expectations. Beginning the book are four prose poems which make me laugh, though most readers might not find the initial offerings as humorous as I do.
So what is ash? Ash is the remains after a fire and a metaphor for the disintegration, wearing away that occurs in relationships. This is the theme of Mindock’s poems and a reader may suspect that her writing in this volume recalls a husband or husbands, a lover or lovers or perhaps friends.
In “Protected” we meet an anonymous man whose life is reduced to ash:
Inside his house was his life, protected by a roof. By the time the firemen got there, it was gone.
He sifts through what remains, eyes sunk, hands asleep, brain idle for hours.
The man surfaces his heart. He carries it away deliberately. It still beats, and he breathes asking. how much sorrow can this heart take? There is never an answer.
In “Bitten” there a revelation telling readers more about a relationship in which the other person is the loser:
I was bitten by your heart, injured and burnt by the flame. The crackling was so loud, it hurt my ears. Did I listen to my own voice which was clear? No. I should have taken it seriously. Everywhere I went in the house were his clothes, his books, his life, which I let dust collect on. Things got smokier, battling the embers with false waters. It did not work.
Tomorrow we find each other’s breath faithfully flowing in the wind.
Gloria Mindock’s poetry is filled with angst, anguish, heartbreak and fright. For example in “Exit” she writes “I hide from you in ways/you’ll never know.” Or in “Carrots” the first stanza reads, “There is blood on my hands/from the knife./It was an accident I said as I/sliced the carrots into tiny roundness.” What happens next is the expected loss of appetite. But this is really about a relationship in which the knife, the carrot and the blood symbolize the negative aspects of two people fighting, the aggressive one and the passive aggressive partner.
In the poem “I Don’t Think of You” we see the discarding of a relationship compared to a lawn that has not been tended and has grown brown and ugly. It is a metaphor for the people or events Mindock experienced over time.
I don’t think of you, not even in my dreams. There is no existence between your heart and mine. Your heart I carved up in the thick air. Pieces rain down on the lawn. Dead with no color, not keeping the yard beautiful, Just something that blends in over time.
Knives are important in this volume of poetry. They are used as the symbolic severing of association with others who become the ash of a relationship that was doomed to end and left smoldering.
The book is a losing battle of intimacy. Mindock’s imagery is extraordinary, showing he depth of her understanding of human suffering. The stark scenes of falling apart or destruction of love is written in a memorable voice which is ultimately brave despite the wounds and pain suffered in relationships that were never meant to be.
Gloria Mindock’s Ash is a must read for those who enjoy poetry on the edge or verse that rings with the futility of failed love.
Ash is written by the former Poet Laureate of Somerville, MA, in 2017 and 2018. She was awarded the 5th and 40th Moon Prize from Writing in a Woman’s Voice for her poems “Adventure” and “Listen” which are in her book Whiteness of Bone. Mindock was awarded the Ibbetson Street Press Lifetime Achievement Award and was the recipient of the Allen Ginsberg Award for Community Service by the Newton Writing and Publishing Center. She has been a visiting artist at Tufts Experimental College, Northeastern University, Endicott College and Bunker Hill Community College.
This is an extraordinary book by a wonderful poet whose words have brought much to the understanding of the dark side of human nature. Readers of Mindock’s poetry will become enthralled with this first-class poet.
-Zvi A. Sesling, Poet Laureate, Brookline, MA 2017-2020 and Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Other Reviews for "ASH" (forthcoming)
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