Burning Heaven

Burning Heaven

BurningHeavencoverWinner 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.

Burning Heavenmay be purchased from your favorite bookstore, from on-line vendors such as Better World Books, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble, or from the publisher. Or support your local bookseller. For a list of independent bookstores, visit www.indiebound.org.

Burning Heaven
Wind Publications
ISBN 978-1-893239-81-4
$15.00

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
For Helen

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.

Recent Posts

Next Big Thing Blog Hop

“The Next Big Thing” is a blog hop where writers around the world share what they’re working on by responding to ten questions. Thanks to Denton Loving who invited me to the game. You can read his post at http://www.facebook.com/notes/denton-loving/my-next-big-thing-interview/ I’m tagging Frank X Walker, Abigail DeWitt, Dana Wildsmith, Neil Sagebiel, and Jane Sasser. We’ll see their answers next week.

What is your working title of your book?
Fire Is Your Water, which is a line from a Rumi poem. The full line and epigraph of this novel is “If you are a friend of God, fire is your water.”

Where did the idea come from for the book?

My great-grandmother, Ida Franklin Minick, was a healer. When the family barn burned in the early 1950s, she, her daughter-in-law (my grandmother Sarah), and my uncle were the only ones home. The three of them ran into the blazing building and saved all of the animals. In the process, my grandmother severely burned her hands. Afterward, though, Ida did not heal Sarah’s hands; another relative was called in to do that. The why behind this has fascinated me for much of my life. Was Ida too shocked by the fire? What happened to her in the burning building that she could not heal? Or put another way, who heals the healer?
And then later, this question emerged: What happens when the healer, a devotedly religious person, falls in love with a non-religious person? These two questions drive this novel.

What genre does your book fall under?
Novel/Literary Fiction.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Since this takes place in the early 1950s, let’s just make this Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. They always had some amazing sparks in the movies they made together.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
How fire transforms people.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I plan to send it to my agent, Paige Wheeler of Folio Literary Services. Hopefully she’ll find it a home.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The first complete draft took roughly 1-2 years; I’m working on the eighth draft right now. I’ve been working on this book (interspersed w/ other books) for over a dozen years. First, I thought it would be nonfiction, but eventually I saw the need to combine several family stories that cover four generations and thirty years. To do so required the use of fiction. Since this is my first foray into this genre, I had a lot to learn in the process. But that’s the whole point, the process.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
It’s easier to call up writers who have influenced me. These include Cormac McCarthy, Ron Rash, Jeannette Walls, and John Casey, along with Darnell Arnoult, Fred Chappell, and James Galvin. Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible has also been a touchstone.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
It’s impossible to really answer this question—do you start w/ all of the teachers who nurtured you along the way, including your parents and sis who taught you to read, your grandparents who gave you room to roam—or your wife who has read every page with a sharper eye than many editors? And don’t forget about the giant oak you touch every morning or the hoarse crow you listen for every afternoon. Or do you count up all of the many books and writers who have shaped you over the years, from Wendell Berry, Terry Tempest Williams, and Jim Wayne Miller to Thoreau, Abbey, Dickinson, to my favorite contemporary poets, Thorpe Moeckel and Maurice Manning. And I’m sure I’ve missed many others here. Or really, do you focus inward and realize that you can’t not write? To do so is insanity, and so the inspiration comes from a deep need to every day touch a little of that universal peace that resides in all of us.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Cicero, the talking raven, will bite you if you don’t watch out. Because the verb to raven means to hunger.

Coming up next week, five writers (Frank X Walker, Dana Wildsmith, Neil Sagebiel, Abigail DeWitt, and Jane Sasser) will share their projects. They’ll post their responses next Wednesday and tag some new people.

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