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Ruin Paperback – September 1, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The 35-poem sequence composing Cruz's chillingly powerful debut traces the coming-of-age of a girl whose family is haunted by the death of a brother, perhaps by his own hand. In language that is pleadingly clear but also, in the long wake of a shameful family secret, necessarily withholding ("Like a girl, he was always/ Trading what little he owned/ Of his life"), Cruz seeks terms with which to mourn and regain what she has lost. Two sections titled "In the Kingdom" recount a childhood as idyllic and magical ("Discover a hidden winter trapped in a snuffbox") as it is violent and dangerous ("Let's find something still alive/ Left to kill"). The remaining two sections, both called "Praying," drift into the murkier territory of the unconscious, where, shifting between family members' voices, Cruz's poems face the ghosts of the past: "I washed my silver handgun as I set/ The last dangerous dream afloat." If reconciliation comes, it does so only in the form of beauty and determination: "Set me in the field and let the stars/ have their way." Cruz is a new poet to watch. (Sept.)
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“Cynthia Cruz’s passionate, intense poems inhabit a landscape of fates and fatal hungers, nightmares and dangerous desires, in which enchantment and terror are so intimate that they become one.”—Reginald Shepherd

"...the poems in this first collection are almost all passionate and full of energy...Cruz says: 'I spent a lifetime inside the destruction./ And like anyone, I made a world someplace else.' These poems are that world: tough, sometimes hard to swallow, but certainly compelling."—Library Journal

"To enjoy these to permit the elliptical mind of a poet deeply grieved and disquieted, who is sifting through detritus and artifacts presumably to find reconciliation, or a way to heal."—Small Spiral Notebook

"This is not a book about peacocks in twilight nor should it be read in the parlor. These spare, intense poems are both terrifying and excruciatingly tender, often both at once. Rarely is mystery so lucid, rarely does poetry rush so directly to the marrow. Ruin is a brilliant debut."—Thomas Lux


Product Details

  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Alice James Books; First Edition edition (September 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1882295587
  • ISBN-13: 978-1882295586
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #304,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Cynthia Cruz is the author of Ruin, a collection of poems published in 2006 by Alice James Books. Her second collection, The Glimmering Room, was published by Four Way Books in 2012. Her work has been published in numerous journals including the New Yorker, the Paris Review, Kenyon Review, American Poetry Review, Field, and others. Her works has been anthologized in "Isn't it Romantic: 100 Poems by Younger American Poets" and "The Iowa Anthology of New American Poetries." She has received fellowships from Yaddo, and the MacDowell Colony, and she was the 2010-2011 Hodder Fellow in Poetry at Princeton University. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Kotecki on December 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
I agree with Harold Bloom's test of the potency of literature: it possesses a strangeness that forces you to change your world somehow to incorporate it, or to give up and leave your world in order to join it somewhere else. Cynthia Cruz's cycle of poems does some of each. On the surface I can make easy comparisons to Rimbaud (for the torrent of images) and Plath (for the here-take-a-look-at-my-bleeding-wrists-no-I-don't-mind-ness) but after a few readings a world that is clearly Cruz's own emerges. I have found myself describing it as gothic, then hastening to clarify that none of the stereotypical gothic trappings are here. But the aesthetic of rummaging around in the ugly to find a sliver of beauty is fascinating in her hands.

So much is surprising about this collection. How the lynchpin of the whole cycle goes almost unnoticed in one of the most understated poems. How the structure is in some ways quite formal (shifts in color and symbol from before to after that lynchpin) and in other ways quite postmodern (try to pin down the way drugs figure in this text.)

Clearly I am a fan; I suppose I wouldn't take the time to write a review of an obscure, slender volume of poetry if I weren't. This book is a steal, and I think it's important to support a talented poet who has made an ugly pretty thing that will meet you on its own terms.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
Cynthia Cruz, Ruin (Alice James Books, 2006)

Ruin is a book that will hurt you, but do so in an indefinable way, kind of like the charming guy at the bar who couches a mild insult within every compliment. Cruz' work loves to contradict itself emotionally, every happiness cursed, every blackness countermanded with a joy:

There's a gunboat cutting through the distance,
Its hull ablaze with honey light and black
Lanterns tattering in the breeze. Off the rafters
Hangs an old yellow dress I wore once when I was little.

There's a sick Sheltie staring from the landing
And a pile of cages rusting in the weather.

A ghost, I enter the boat.

When it pulls up, I'll be a girl again.
("Secondhand Gun")

These are short, punchy pieces, each demanding reflection. It's a small book, but one worth savoring. *** ½
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. M. Martinez on October 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
Of all the new first books of poetry I've read this year "Ruin" is an outstanding work of lyrics taut in language, mystery and emotion. I bought this last week and I've read through it everyday since then. Great book.
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By d on June 26, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Strong work
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