an on-line poetry magazine
for the 21st century

WINTER 2021-22

 

BOOK REVIEWS

Ash by Gloria Mindock
(Glass Lyre Press 2021)
a review by Francine Witte

Gloria Mindock’s newest book, Ash, is a master class in how language can be deceptively simple and direct and yet simultaneously explosive. The (near) title poem “Ashes,” is a perfect example:

Ashes

Bury me into your heart.

Don’t forget.

Even when you distribute my ashes,

embers of arms will flow out into the wind.

What will I attach to.

The rain will push my ashes to the ground

mixing them with mud.

Stepped on, maybe someone will bring

me home on their shoe, wipe the mud off with

a rag, throw it away, then off to the dumps.

This is all I am, garbage!

To be buried again into non-existence.

There is a chance I will be recycled.

Later, I could be part of that doll

your child embraces.

No overwrought or tortured overwriting here. The emotions that are evoked by these straightforward images speak for themselves. The poems throughout are presented as the fire and the beautiful ashes they create linger after.

The metaphor of ash is turned over and over in this collection. In the first three of the four sections, Burnt, Baked, Buried, we see the various facets and nuances of “ash.” We read about ashes as the remains of love, of violence, of what is left after the everydayness of life. This recurring idea fascinates in the same way the blaze in a hearth does. The same yellow flames, the same crackle of logs, but each lick and shimmy is just different enough to hold you for hours.

The last section, Opposition, closes out the collection with a series of mini-dramas that use letters for character names.

O/E

                                                O was the master of confessions,

He would tell of fires he started,

Felt a sensual tinge watching,

This tradition was romantic.

                                                E was very complicated.

Did not want to hear what O said.

There was much too much ash torturing her,

She romanticized her objects, was mad

he destroyed them.

The volcano developed.

Mindock is, indeed, a master of the craft of poetry. She served in 2016-17 as Poet Laureate of Somerville, MA. The acknowledgements page of Ash is evidence of how widely published she is, and she heads up the wonderful Cervena Barva Press. All this in addition to having published previous books and receiving notable awards.

The poems in Ash are dark and moody and Mindock is confident enough to never direct the reader with maudlin qualifiers. She presents each poem as a fire. It’s as if she knows the ashes will live in your heart.