Death of an Unvirtuous Woman
"In Death of an Unvirtuous Woman, Ondrus achieves that which news accounts fail time and time to do: she captures the complexity and multiplicity of the lives cut short by violence, outside of a two-dimensional portrayal of victim and killer. Why else do we as a society cling to artifacts if not to remember, to be reminded, of the lives they represent? Ondrus has sat with the artifacts of Mary Elizabeth Bach’s too-long forgotten case and listened. The result is a collage of voices, angles, and perspectives."
"Mary Bach’s three severed fingers were a grim display at the history museum in Wood County, Ohio. I always felt the woman seemed doubly betrayed — first slashed dead by her husband and then suffering the century-long indignity of having her body parts deemed an exhibition. Finally, in Suzanne Ondrus’s Death of an Unvirtuous Woman, she is given representation that she lacked in life. Of the fingers, Ondrus writes, 'They have worked beyond their years, / beyond their marrow,' but she observes that they shout a message from their museum case to other women in danger: 'Take your life and run,' they say while pointing toward any exit. Ondrus breathes life back into Mary Bach with her loving attention and her well-honed poetic craft."
"To read or hear Suzanne Ondrus’s word wizardry granted balladry is to confront a problem as old as Genesis: How does a woman claim her Liberty despite all the law books and their patriarchal, rule-of-thumb malarkey, all the biblical libel against her Sex, and all the he-man chest-thumping? And what is her peril if she does? After all, the most radical phrase in any language is, “I am a free woman.” Death of an Unvirtuous Woman, narrating the saga of the rebel Mary Bach and her murderous hubby, Carl, though set in 1881 Ohio, is as relevant as today’s headlines—around the world. Certainly, every woman who refuses to be a man’s chattel is a pioneer of Liberty! And what can he do to try to stop her? His miserable Authority must get his hands round the throat of that “sadistic” mouth! He must grouch and crunch, mulch and munch, and grunt like thunder, his dander up, to take a white weapon to his wife, her inimitable throat. He cannot touch her as lightly as falling leaves. Suzanne Ondrus’s accessible, plain-spoken, honest, and convincing poetry will horrify you with a story of murder and execution, but thrill you with the fact that even domestic spaces are not immune to American “revolution”: "I can smell the air / enticing seeds to burst. / I can see the big sky / screaming opportunity and big yields. // I can feel the money / pushing up all around me / like a field of wheat ready to harvest.”
"In the words of science writer Gerard Schroeder, 'The probabilistic nature of nature, the spread in possible outcomes, means we cannot reconstruct the exact past from the present.' And yet, with taunting songs, quips and quotes from newspapers, and poem after poem driving the stake in, Ondrus challenges that assertion with the exactness of the time’s arrow of the poet: these poems fly straight back into the gruesome murder of Mary Bach (whose physical death at the hands of her husband was underscored by her spiritual murder by the members of her community), and startle us with a warning for the now—can we 'see' the people we are killing with slander today, or will we have to wait another century to be exposed? Ondrus injects dignity into the murdered woman, and moral alarm into readers of this collection: three adjectives, and a life is depreciated—a woman, silenced into meat."
“…sensual energy like Aimé Césaire and Léopold Sédar Senghor, a writer possessed by thoughts and visions.”
“A provocative debut collection that is brave and urgently necessary. It brilliantly brings us into a new world where poetry is neither American nor African, where over and over, the speaker in each poem discovers another world, another America and another Africa, a larger world outside our vision of the world we thought we knew. This is a book that will surprise.”
"Romantic, restless, inquisitive, and hungry, with a timeless sensuality and soul-bearing tone…it is a document of the human moving in and out of love.…her poetic fluctuates between a language of self-possession and of dispersion, until ‘obliteration of self,’ takes place, and the dream to be a poet, not of earth, flesh, race or nation, but of the universal air that regards it all, is achieved."
“These are poems that will continue to seduce readers over and over again, and the only voodoo Ondrus is guilty of, is her relentless use of imagery that plants passionate seeds in our bodies, letting us discover new reasons to love and love again!”
“With luscious and corporeal imagery Suzanne Ondrus shows us that there are no people without places. Passion Seeds is about the ways we pass and trespass those places, with and through each other. It is about the way history and race are written into us, and how the violence of the past holds onto us with names like “white” and “black,” even while in love. Passion Seeds is an excellent look at what holds the world together and keeps it apart.”