The Glass Knife: A Review of Cynthia Cruz’s How the End Begins
Like Cynthia Cruz, I too am in love with all things broken. Obsessed with endings before beginnings have even begun. When my mother came home from a trip to Boston with Cynthia Cruz’s How the End Begins in her suitcase it felt like kismet. I felt an immediate attraction to the work as if I had just met a friend. I was unfamiliar with Cruz, my mother had gone into the Grolier Poetry Book Shop and told the salesperson about her poet daughter and they recommended this book. Books that fall into your lap by the grace of others are special books indeed.
I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that Cruz’s How the End Begins is like a modern version of Sylvia Plath’s astonishing collection Ariel. There is that same psychic energy, that same obsession with all things related to death. These are poems that cry out from the edge and marvel at their own ability to still breathe. In “Dark Liturgy” the poem opens with a sense of wonder “Enter the spectacular: / Diaphanous and tremendousing. / The human spirit / Lives here,” but the mansion of the soul is dark and the women mourn their lost children and by the end of the poem Cruz writes, “I will lose my life / And die / Into my own sweet making.” There is a thread between the spectacular and the end of life, and that thread is the poem.
Throughout this collection Cruz recognizes the poem’s ability to create a world of its own which she refers to as dioramas. In “Self Portrait in Blue Seance Room” she writes:
My entire world
It’s endless failures and humiliations,
The dioramas of my pretty
For Cruz, the poem has its own language; it recreates the inner world in miniature. Cruz’s dioramas in her own words are “frozen” and “dust-marred,” they are constructed out of memories and a procession of surreal images. I use the word procession with intention, as Cruz uses at key points in the collection to create a funeral tone. There are places in the collection where this tone shifts, where death moves beyond a dark end to the possibilities of an afterlife: a place where perhaps the brokenness of this world is restored to wholeness.
The title of this collection, How the End Begins, is taken from an article about Lars Von Trier’s bizarre yet beautiful film Melancholia. A gorgeously captured film centered around a woman's emotional and mental unravelling that shifts into a movie about the end of the world. The film ultimately explores the ways in which these characters come to terms with such an ending. Cruz evokes this tone of disaster, of melancholy, as well as the visual beauty of Trier’s movie.
These poems are both fierce and delicate, they own each of these words outside of their various connotations; instead of Jean-Paul Sartre’s paper knife and Adrienne Rich’s glass pen we find in Cynthia Cruz’s collection a glass knife glittering with its ability to pierce the heart.
How the End Begins Cynthia Cruz Four Way Books 15.95 paperback ISBN-13: 978-1-935536-67-3
Brunch: For today’s brunch I toasted up some walnuts and chopped pears in a skillet with brandy, added honey along with some oil and spices— rosemary and nutmeg. I paired this with some cabernet cheese as well as an olive medley, and some pink lady apples which are my favorite apples, not due only to their name but because of their bright flavor and perfect crunch.