What the poetry experts say about
"... promises an answer to that last hard question:
'But who will sing for me?' "
-- Diane Gilliam
ISBN    978-1-934894-04-0
70 pages
Among the dying, it is never too late to find familial love
Among the dying, it is never too late to find familial love
In HER SECRET SONG, Jim Minick peers into the
“hollow-hidden spring” of his aunt’s life, exploring a
continual seep of water “that sings her secret song.”

This collection tells of the poet's Aunt Ruth and her
lifelong struggles: with poverty, "elephant man’s
disease," loneliness, cancer ... and, inevitably, with the
way of her death.  

HER SECRET SONG chronicles a story of connection
that transcends the frailties of living and dying by
revealing the essences of looking and learning.  
Jim Minick
(the character on the left)
is the author of two books of poetry, Her Secret Song
Burning Heaven. He has also written a collection of
Finding a Clear Path, and edited All There Is to
by Rita Riddle. Minick has received awards from
the Appalachian Writers Association,
, Now and Then Magazine and Radford University,
where he teaches writing and literature. He’s garnered
grants from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the
Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, and a residency
at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Minick’s
work has appeared in many publications including
Shenandoah, Orion, San Francisco Chronicle,
Encyclopedia of Appalachia, Conversations with Wendell
, The Sun, Appalachian Journal, Bay Journal News,
Wind. He writes a monthly column for The Roanoke
Times New River Current
. He lives, hikes and gardens in
the mountains of Virginia with his wife and three dogs.
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(c) 2012
What the poetry experts say about

It is too simple to call Her Secret Song an extended elegy, because these poems do
not lament the death of a beloved yet inscrutable aunt. Instead, these poems
discover through the intimacy of dying, a final honesty, a calm understanding of
what one life has meant. Jim Minick looks back on that life, mostly through the lens
of small moments, and realizes the meaning, hard and unbeautiful at times, goes on.
                                                                                  — Maurice Manning, author of BUCOLICS

In this collection that honors the living and dying of a beloved aunt, Jim Minick
invites us to see the world as she sees it.  With one eye covered by what the world
would call deformity, Ruth’s vision turns inward and outward, looks straight at the
end of life, and does not turn away. A beagle dog named Bonnie, Lindt chocolates,
tumors that are benign – all blessings are gratefully accepted into her world, and in
turn, passed on by the poet to bless our own. Like Ruth before him, Minick loves
his way through the grief. He offers us an unflinching vision and a model of
connection that promises, for Ruth and for us, an answer to that last, hard
question: But who will sing for me?
                                                                          — Diane Gilliam, author of KETTLE BOTTOM

In Her Secret Song, Jim Minick goes to care for his Aunt Ruth, who is dying of
cancer. We are led into this collection by old photos, which appear throughout. In
poem by fine poem, he uncovers different aspects of an unsung heroine. Despite a
disfiguring disease present since babyhood, she is funny, spunky, vivid and brave,
having borne ‘the heft/of seventy years,/the extra load of mirrors and stares/that tell
only the/surface truth.’ Minick tells her story and to some extent that of her family
with acute observation and immediacy. I have not read another poet with such
unbelievable tenderness.  This compelling collection touches your heart without
being the least bit sentimental. I could not put it down.
                                                                                — Noel Smith, author of THE WELL STRING

Minick awakens all the senses, smelling and tasting and touching no less than
listening and seeing, so that what in turn awakens in the reader is compassion.
Minick does not try to fetch such responses; he merely conveys the human
condition, literally warts and all, and the difference love and caring can make as
seen in little things, like steadying hands on elbows of another. Much poetry today
seeks to portray irony, a quality of intellect. Minick’s aim is in another direction, to
illustrate by powerful metaphor through vehicles of the senses the “old verities.”
Toward this end he renders delicately the sweet, sad song of his aunt, gives shape
to the growing darkness around her, providing in memoriam a triumph for ties of
love in life and death.
                                                                  — Jack Higgs, editor of APPALACHIA INSIDE OUT

Reading Her Secret Song is like finding a locket on a city street – scuffed and silver
and private. Imagine then the surprise of finding your own face there in miniature
when you open it. It is that strange and lucky. Jim Minick fits a whole life story into
this heart-shaped thing. Fine unforgettable poems.
                                                  — Steve Scafidi, author of FOR LOVE OF COMMON WORDS
Click the photo
to step into Jim's book and experience excerpts of the beautiful literary and visual imagery it holds ...
Ruth walks with her mother
and two younger sisters
Experience time travel ...
Click on the author's 1967 portrait
to email him in the 21st Century!
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