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Gloria Mindock Talks About Poetry and Truth

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Gloria Mindock is the author of La Porţile Raiului (Ars Longa Press, 2010, Romania) translated into the Romanian by Flavia Cosma, Nothing Divine Here (U Soku Stampa, 2010, Montenegro), and Blood Soaked Dresses (Ibbetson, 2007). She is founding editor of Cervena Barva Press, editor of the Istanbul Literary Review (Turkey) and one of the USA editors for Levure Litteraire (France). Gloria's poetry has been translated and published into Romanian, Serbian, Spanish, and French. Widely published, her work has appeared in numerous magazines such as Vatra Veche, UNU: Revistă de Cultură, Gând Românesc, Citadela, Aurora (Romania), Web Del Sol, Arabesques, River Styx, Phoebe, Poet Lore, Ibbetson, Thrice, Thunderclap and in the anthology Hildagards Daughters (Belgium).

Gloria's new book, Whiteness of Bone is forthcoming and her fourth chapbook, Pleasure Trout was just published by Muddy River Books. She has had nominations for the Pushcart Prize, St. Botolph Award, and was awarded a fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council distributed by the Somerville Arts Council.

Loren Kleinman (LK): You're the editor and publisher of Cervena Barva Press and editor of the Istanbul Literary Review based in Turkey. You've also published two chapbooks, Doppleganger (S. Press) and Oh Angel (U Soku Stampa) and three poetry collections. Which do you prefer: publishing or writing? How do you manage your time between serving as publisher, editor and writer?

Gloria Mindock (GM): I am a writer first, a publisher second. Since I am an insomniac, I write in the early morning hours and on Sunday mornings. I devote more time to publishing, but it all seems to balance out in the end. Cervena Barva Press is a two person press, William J. Kelle and I. Sometimes there is not enough time to get done all that I want to. I have been lucky over the years to have some amazing interns who have been such a great help. The press has been growing so it has been difficult to keep up with it. I did make one addition to the press this year. I added Flavia Cosma as my international editor. I am really excited about having her join the press.

During the day, while I am at work as a social worker, if I have time, I answer my e-mails so that I don't have to in the evenings. I also promote on Facebook and list serves during the day. This frees me to work on books in the evening, send out press releases and other responsibilities for the press.

LK: You have quite the international CV. Can you talk about your cross cultural literary involvement? How has it expanded your awareness as a writer? As a poet?

GM: I have always been influenced by Eastern European writing. When I decided to start Cervena Barva Press in 2005, publishing writers from all over the world was my primary intent and still is today. Publishing and corresponding with writers from many different countries and reading their poetry and fiction, has stimulated me as a writer. I love reading good work and it makes me want to write. Since many of my poems are about the atrocities committed in the world, I have gained knowledge first hand and write about it from the survivors' perspective. I want to hear from the people who are experiencing it not read about it in the newspaper. Being in contact with so many writers internationally has expanded my reading of overseas work. It was high to begin with but now, it seems like most books in my library, are translations. These books I read over and over.

LK: You also worked as a social worker. Talk about what that was like and how that's contributed to your poetry. What themes enter your work?

GM: Yes, I work as a social worker/counselor in the addictions field. It has been 30 years at my current job but I have been in the field for 34 years. Nothing from my working in addictions has ever crept into my poetry. I keep them separate. I work with men ages 21 and over who are addicted to heroin, cocaine, benzos, alcohol and the list goes on. Since I work with this everyday, the last thing I want to do is write about it when I'm not at work. Believe me, I have many things and situations to write about from my years in the field, but I prefer not to.

My favorite themes to write about are death, angels and the atrocities.

LK: I'm interested in reading violent poetry that looks at war, abuse, and loss. However, these are difficult subjects to write about in a way that is deliberate. I find some poets focus on the language to get the violence across rather than images. For example, I see the use of curse words that express a sense of violence linguistically rather than using imagery to takes us there. How do you express acts of violence in poetry in a way that doesn't offend or distract the reader? Should there also be a sense of peace at the end?

GM: I use imagery to express death, violence, war and a sense of loss in my poetry.
Cuss words won't happen in my poetry to get the horror across. I don't think you need them. I see so much of it today and it just takes away from the poem. If it is used in a direct quote, well, okay. Many just throw it in and it just doesn't work. My language is graphic in description such as writing about machetes hacking bodies, blood, bones and the way violence is used. These are constantly mentioned in my poems. The purpose is not to offend but wake up the reader to what is happening in the world. I am always surprised how many people don't know about all the atrocities that are still happening today. Many have heard a few things about past atrocities but don't know to what extent the loss, the murder, the ethnic cleansings.

How could I ever put a sense of peace in my poems, when there is no peace in the place I am writing about? So no, there should be no sense of peace at the end of the poem. Just tell it like it is.

LK: Does poetry have to be true? Why? Why not?

GM: Poetry does not have to be true. In my book, Nothing Divine Here, none of the poems are about me though they are written in first person like I experienced them. The poems are years of listening to other people on the streets, cafes, buses etc... tell me their problems and most of it was always about a bad relationship. So I took what they told me and wrote about it like I was the one who went through all this bad stuff.

I love reading poetry that is true and not true. What I want is for the writing to grab me and reach my soul.

LK: Why should we care about poetry?

GM: Without freedom of expression in this genre, the arts would suffer. The world is so much richer with poetry in it. Think about how long poetry goes back in time, and it is still with us. There are so many forms and styles of poetry so there is something for everyone. Life would be boring without it. When I read good poetry, it gives me hope for this world. Poetry is the heart and soul of the world. Sounds cliché but poetry is life. We need it. I write because I write. I don't think about it. I just know I have to do it. So maybe it is difficult for me to explain why we need poetry. I just know that we do. I don't think about it. Ever since I was a little girl, I have been surrounded by poetry. It has always been in my life. Poetry expressing the inner depths of life.