• Winner of the 2008 Book of the Year Award from the Virginia College Bookstores Association
• Nominated for both SIBA Poetry Book of the Year and Appalachian Book of the Year
Burning Heaven captures the many paradoxes of this life…of how we break a law to preserve a love, burn a calf to prevent injury, or watch an Easter snow kill so many blooms. We burn this heaven of our own lives simply by overlooking a bird’s flight, or forgetting our lover’s beauty, or worse, by hollowing out mountains to create “safe” bunkers. These poems explore the ideas of heaven, loss and love, of singing the pebble, dyeing in color, and puzzling together the whole world. And Burning Heaven quietly calls readers to look closely as well.
What others say
Jim Minick attends to these pages with the same caring hand and eye as an organic blueberry farmer–no pesticides, no additives, no artificial flavors. Every generation of poets has a writer whose real classroom is the great outdoors. Minick’s abiding love, respect, and attention to the natural world and his family’s place in it earns him this honorable distinction for our generation.”
— Frank X Walker, author of Affrilachia
Alive as woods, these poems. Surprising in sound and rhythm, they are woven of past and present, love and work. Minick moves from a childhood rooted in farmer’s wisdom–uncles’, grandparents’, father’s–through the painful present of personal, political, and environmental loss, to the deep peace of life on the farm with his wife. Pain abides but there is also “the sun’s own music” played by a spider on the LP of her “dead-level web” (“Ghost Stump, Sun Music”). In the traditions of Jim Wayne Miller and James Still, Jim Minick writes to save a world where love and hope are lifted in the leaves.”
— George Ella Lyon, author of Don’t You Remember? A Memoir
I challenge the readers of Burning Heaven to read “Dehorning,” “The Brier’s Last Days,” “Dogs Unstack Wood,” “Witness,” or any other of these poems for that matter, and not get hooked–just try to put the book down. I confess, I could not. The softness and the edge in each poem took me to the next.”
— Ron Houchin, author of Among Wordless Things
During unsettled times such as the present, we look for the poems we read to offer us three qualities: perspective, instruction, and reason to hope. Jim Minick’s Burning Heaven hands us all three in a collection which satisfies our need to both lament and to sing. Minick heeds Einstein’s admonition that by going deeply into nature we will better understand the things we know. “We’re making these calves into angels…” Minick’s uncle tells him in “Dehorning”, and that’s exactly what Minick has done in this collection. He has taken the gawky calves of our regional past and of human nature and made of such earthy subjects a hymnody of instruction and praise.”
— Dana Wildsmith, author of One Good Hand
Excerpts from Burning Heaven
Naming the Mourning Dove
Helen mourned the truth
I should not have told her.
Like the dove, she sighed
a descending breath of regret.
For her, the dove sang of joy,
a quiet greeting to the morning sun.
Who is to say Helen isn’t right,
or that this song could not exact
both the blackness of loss
and the joy of dawn?
Singing the Pebble
At river’s edge, he found
all water, earth and mirrored sky
in one small stone, hazel and round.
He rolled it on his tongue,
tasted springhead and creek,
the roiling river, the sky’s lung.
He carried it between lip and gum
the rest of his life, trying
to sing this one pebble unsung.
Dogs Unstack Wood
after mouse again, or bunny,
or even last week, groundhog
(that didn’t escape like others),
something weary of fangs and blood.
Becca the lab climbs up top,
Bobbling once on falling wood,
ears forward, legs crouched,
six feet high and hoping to pounce.
Jake the shepherd bites hickory
and oak, whole-body yanks
what I so carefully ricked,
a ton of hours he unworks
with snuffle and snort and heave,
blind on scent, fresh heat,
the firewood already kindling
spark of mouse darting deep.
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