portrait Gloria Mindock

interviewed by Derek Alger

Published in Issue No. 170 ~ July, 2011

Gloria Mindock, author of the poetry collections, Blood Soaked Dresses (Ibbetson St. Press, 2007) and Nothing Divine Here (U Soku Stampa, 2010), is editor and publisher of Cervena Barva Press, and in 2007, became the editor of the Istanbul Literary Review, an online journal based in Turkey.

Mindock is also the author of two poetry chapbooks, Doppelganger (S. Press) and Oh Angel (U Soku Stampa), and her poems have been published in numerous journals, including River Styx, Phoebe, Poesia, and Poet Lore, to name a few, as well as appearing in several anthologies. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and was awarded a fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council distributed by the Somerville Arts Council.

Gloria Mindock

From 1984-1994. Mindock edited the Boston Literary Review/Blur and was co-founder of Theatre S & S Press, Inc.  During its existence, Theatre S. received grants from the Polaroid Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Globe Foundation, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.  Her poetry collection, Doppelganger, served as the text for theatre piece of the same name performed by Theatre S.

Over the years, Mindock has performed, acted, composed music, and sang in the theatre.  Her most recent performance piece, Walking In El Salvador. is scheduled to debut this September.

Mindock lives in Somerville, MA, where she has worked as Social Worker, and also does freelance editing of manuscripts and conducts workshops for writers.

Derek Alger: Were you creative as a kid?

Gloria Mindock: I was always creative as a kid.  I wrote music all the time and words to go with it.  I remember one song about the Mississippi River when I was 10 years old.  I still remember it!  As I got older, I still loved music but I turned to acting and theatre.  I acted in plays in high school.  My senior year in high school, the drama department was started again by Mr. Gordon Rogers.  I thought he was remarkable.  He called me “Little Nutsy.”  I ended up acting in The Skin Of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder in college that he directed.  I had a blast.  He had a deep voice and could recite Shakespeare for hours.  It was amazing.  He was such an inspiration to me.  He died some years ago which was a real loss.

I also did a few plays at St. Bede High School in Peru. IL.  At that time it was an all guy Catholic school.  My best memory is being in a play that Father Placid Hatfield and Father Gabriel directed.  They both were so wonderful and I have never forgotten them.  Two very special priests.  I often wonder where they are now. I also sang in musicals so it was a great experience.

DA: You originally hailed from the midwest.

GM: Yes, a proud midwestener, born in LaSalle, Illinois, and raised in nearby Oglesby, population 4.300, today, 3,800.  I disliked high school except for a few teachers.  I had great friends throughout school.  My closest friends from home are Janie, Shirley, Carol, and Sandy.  There is a special bond of friendship there that will always be there.  I look forward to going home and spending time with them and my family.  My wonderful friends made school bearable and we had such great times!

DA: And after high school?

GM: I belonged to Stage 212 in LaSalle, IL and was cast as a Kit Kat Girl, Maria, in Cabaret. I loved that musical. I was one of the lead dancers and singers. The cast was great. I went to Illinois Valley Community College for two years just to get the general studies out of the way.  Mr. Jim Jewell, who was the lead in Cabaret, was a teacher there.  I did many Readers Theatre productions with him as the instructor and had him for a few classes.  He was a gem, also like Gordon Rogers.  During my community college years, I continued to do theatre.  I was very lucky to have such good influences.  Other than that, I didn’t care for my classes there.  I was bored by them.  I never believed in studying things that I would never ever use in my life.  I am a total radical against the educational system as it stands now and how it was then.

DA: No argument from me.

GM: I went to two other colleges in Illinois and majored in theatre.  First, Theatre Education, then Comprehensive Theatre.  The department was a nightmare for me and I did not belong there.  The teachers were on an ego trip.  One semester they knew you, the next, they did not.  Some of them seemed jealous of the students.  Of course there were some really wonderful teachers but the majority . . . I hated my classes.  I did a lot of acting in shows and loved it.  Many of them directed by students. This was a wonderful experience and I learned a lot.  In the department, at the time, were really great students who were so gifted.  You see them today on the big screen and on TV — Jeff Perry, John Malkovich, Terry Kinney, Laurie Metcalf, Rhondi Reed, Gary Cole, and many more.  I didn’t really know any of them very well.  Every student there was talented and so nice.

I have nothing but good things to say about the students.  Real gems!  Some of them went on to Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, started by Gary Sinise, and then some continued on their career path elsewhere.  I have no contact with anyone in the theatre department.  I left my mark though and co-directed Godspell and it was one of the best attended shows ever.  That was in the ’70s.  So in summary, pertaining to the classes, I was not a model student, but I do not feel bad about this.

DA: Probably prepared you well for other things.

GM: After I left there, I went to another college and majored in Social Work. It was a good fit for me. I wanted to work with addicts. I focused on addictions, criminology, and crisis intervention. I loved it! I had some great teachers. I did Grad work in theater and that was a great experience. I liked the teachers. They really cared about their students learning.

DA: You decided to go east after college and ended up confounding Theatre S. & S Press, publishing books and producing experimental plays.

GM: I moved east to Somerville, Massachusetts and found a home, and a vibrant artistic community. I love theatre, acting is in my blood. What can I say? I love it. At Theatre S, we did original plays and adaptions. We received grants in the 1980’s. It was a good time for that. I had some wonderful experiences here working with David Miller, a wonderful performance artist, director, and writer, and Paul Miller, who did film-making at that time, both just brilliant, and so many other wonderful people. It was tons of hard work but worth every minute of it. Even when some of the actors didn’t take some things seriously, I still loved it. Yes, I’m old school. I believe in warm-ups and knowing your lines.

DA: Your poetry collection, Doppelganger, was the text for a piece performed by Theatre S.

GM: For this collection, Edgar Allen Poe/William Wilson was an inspiration for writing such dark poetry. It was such a thrill seeing it being performed. The set was done to give the feel like you were looking in the windows of a house. The audience had to walk around looking in the windows to see the action and hear the text, which was my poetry.

DA: When did you start writing poetry.

GM: When I was studying theatre at the college talked about previously. I would go into the library and browse the poetry shelves. There I discovered Keats, Shelly, Byron, Matthew Arnold, and some others who I just loved. I was hooked. I also grew up with poetry books around by Frost, Burns, and some others that my Mother and Dad had. I wrote mostly plays but in 1982, while my ex-husband was part of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, I started to write poetry. I wrote some pretty bizarre poems. Later, I discovered Eastern European writers and that totally is my inspiration for writing now. One of my very first poems was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. I was floored.

DA: You still had a calling for acting.

GM: Always. I plan on performing a piece called, “Walking in El Salvador” which focuses on the atrocities committed there from 1980-1992. It goes along with my book Blood Soaked Dresses. Though I haven’t done anything in years, I will do this.

DA: Your poetry collection, Blood Soaked Dresses, has been praised as “a beautiful, harrowing” book.

Blood Soaked Dresses

GM: This book is very special to me. I worked with El Salvadoran refugees who fled the civil war which lasted from 1980-1992. This book is their account of the atrocities and what they told me written in the first person. A follow-up book, Whiteness Of Bone is currently being worked on. I had to write about this because the world seems to turn its back on such atrocities and genocide.
I wanted to focus on being a voice for the people of El Salvador in this book.

I have always been political following the news of the world. A priest brought El Salvador to my attention. I started hearing so much about it and how could I not get involved? I hope someday they make Arch Bishop Oscar Romero a saint. He was very special to the people of El Salvador. It seemed like at first, he followed what the church told him, and then later, he was there completely for the people.

DA: In 2005, you embarked on another major project.

Yes, I founded Cervena Barva Press. It means “Red Color” in Czech. A few friends told me that I couldn’t do this and that it would be too much for me. I replied, “Watch me!” So the press we born. We publish chapbooks and books of poetry, fiction, and plays. We also publish some poetry postcards, broadsides, and some non-fiction from writers all over the world. William J. Kelle is the other half of the press. He designs the book covers, websites, lays out the chapbooks, and so much more. He is so good at what he does. I also have had many interns from surrounding colleges which has helped. Right now my interns are Kate Clavet and Allison Nonko.

You also have a pretty demanding job.

GM: Being a social worker/counselor has been wonderful. I work with men age 21 and older in a halfway house in Somerville. I have been at CASPAR, Inc, a community-based non-profit organization founded in 1970 in response to the growing need for substance abuse treatment.. since 1994, I like helping those there to learn to live sober and get their lives together. They all have lost everything in their life due to heroin, alcohol, cocaine, oxy’s, and the list goes on, but these are the main drugs of choice. My experiences have all been good. A few times I had rough days on the job but when you look at the whole picture, it has been worth it. So many clients who have come through the program have died. We all try to give them hope. The program is based on AA principles.

DA: What drew you to a specialty in addiction?

GM: I just always believed in helping the less fortunate. My philosophy is that we are all on this planet together. How some people cannot be passionate is beyond me. I volunteered in grade school at a hospital with my friend Jane. We were called, Angelets. At feeding time, we used to hide on the roof because when I fed one patient, he later died. We were freaked out about that. Later in life, and much older, I volunteered for the Red Cross, Kidney Foundation, Easter Seals, and at Anna State Hospital.

DA: Should I ask if you ever sleep.

GM: No.

DA: An email exchange provided you with another creative opportunity.

GM: Yes, I started to correspond with Elkin Getir, the owner, founder, and editor of the Istanbul Literary Review. He had the same vision I have. This vision is to bridge the gaps in writing between countries. After corresponding for awhile, Etkin asked me to edit the Istanbul Literary Review. I said yes and was so excited. I started in September, 2007.

DA: How often does the Istanbul Literary Review come out?

GM: We publish three issues a year online. Elkin has given me full control of what I choose for the magazine. He trusts me completely with it. Guluzar is the Webmaster, Halime, always puts up the best Turkish recipes each issue, and there is a staff which is quite wonderful.

DA: What can we look for in the future?

GM: Personally, a new chapbook called, Pleasure Trout, my book, Whiteness Of Bone, and that performance piece I talked about in the
interview, Walking In El Salvador. Look for many new books by Cerena Barva Press. In the future, I will publish mostly from European countries.