Angela Consolo Mankiewicz: A Poet Bows Off The Stage

Me, Angela and Rose at the LA Times Book Fair in 2014 at USC.

A good friend, one of my favorite people, in fact, died this morning. I am going to miss Angela Consolo Mankiewicz.

If you were to ask me to describe her, I’d say she was beautiful, honest, intelligent, kind, thoughtful, and wise. She loved poetry and good stories. She loved learning. She loved classical music and playing the piano. She loved her friends and helping people and reaching out to people. She loved her cats very much. She loved her husband fiercely.

Someone told me recently that there are four levels of friendship in Los Angeles. The first is dropping off and picking up your friend at LAX (the airport). The second is not telling the cops where the bodies are buried. The third is helping your friend bury the bodies. The fourth is reading his or her manuscript or screenplay. Once Angela took a friend under her wing, she was willing to read his or her manuscript and thoughtfully go through it, give good feedback and advice on where to go, and cheer them on. She was one of the best writerly cheerleaders I ever had. She was also honest in her feedback and critique without being harsh or dismissive. It was usable and constructive and thoughtful. That can be a rare thing, especially in this town, which is full of competitive writers.

Angela and I at the Miracle Mile Writers Club booth at the West Hollywood Book Fair in 2010. She brought a copy of her opera to play for people who happened by.

I first met Angela when I began going to the Miracle Mile Writers Club, back in 2006. Back then we were trying to become part of the California Writers Club and met at the Fairfax Library once a month to talk about the business part of writing. We were a motley crew of writers at all different levels in a variety of genres. We didn’t always know where we were headed as a group, or as individual writers. Angela wasn’t looking for a critique group (which we weren’t); she came looking to spend time with fellow writers. She was patient with newbies and veterans, those who were quiet and talkative. If she judged people it was to see how kind they were to others.

She was a poet and was also working on a libretto for a science fiction opera when I first met her. I loved her work; loved her voice. She was a Pushcart Prize Nominee in 2010. She had worked on her poetry and writing, developed it, understood the work it took to be serious at this thing called writing. And she was willing to read mine.

She got my first novella, The G.O.D. Factor, reviewed in Small Press Review (now defunct, but run by Len Fulton) — and not just by her, but by Hugh Fox.

She understood the stops and starts that happen with writing. She even liked my most recent short story, which is still looking for a home. I will miss having her at my back, cheering me on.

You can see her blogspot with links to some of her work here. You can read more about her here. Most recently she had been published in the Women’s Review of Books and Voices de la Luna.

After our writers group broke up a few years ago, and we all went our separate ways, Angela and I would still meet for coffee or tea, and to talk over life, love, annoyances, and of course our writing. She also liked to have writers over at her house to talk about the universe, love, hate, politics, prejudice, and how to solve the world’s problems. New Year’s Day I would have dinner with she and her husband and our friend Rose. These were solid, cherished times for me.

She had been sick for a while — non-smoking lung cancer — but fighting it every step of the way. It was only in the last month that she deteriorated so quickly. Only over the last week did friends and family understand that this was it. She was on her way out. Some of us rushed over to see her one more time when we heard, but even then, her voice, that vital and vibrant Brooklyn accent, was stilled as she slipped into sleep, and eventually, several days later, slipped away from us completely on a bright and sunny Los Angeles morning.

In Honor of Poetry Month: Angela Consolo Mankiewicz

Previously Published on Blogetary 1.0 April 2013

I forget how very talented my friends are sometimes. They’re my friends. We sit around drinking tea and coffee and discuss physical and emotional aches, pains, triumphs and losses. And the fact that they work very hard at being the best writers or artists or dancers or actors that they can be slips right by my brain pan most days, especially when we end up talking about their cats or dogs or boyfriends/girlfriends/spouses and children.

In honor of poetry month, I’d like to share a couple of poems by one of my friends, Angela Consolo Mankiewicz. This poem was published by RadiusLit.org December 2012:

“The Machine Stops”

By Angela Consolo Mankiewicz

It may be our only hope:
shoot down the satellites, dynamite
the grids, melt the cell towers ….

Let whole populations die out
leaving just enough to burn
or bury the dead and dot
large isolate masses of land;

and light, let there be no light
other than the sun to read by
and read only what is at hand
and what is at hand is only Euripides,
Dante, maybe Dickinson,
Shakespeare, something Zen.

And something else — no priestesses, no priests;
maybe a Keeper to distribute refinements
to inhale, drink, bite into and swallow
to keep us from agitating over more /
better / different / other / mine
something to help us believe life is / can be /
will be good, something to help ease
a beloved’s death, something to ease our own
something to dissolve the depression of being
however temporary the sensation.

We are savage creatures, like most,
and as improbable, in need of taming —
quickly — before the 2am last-call is proclaimed
by a rattle in the species’ throat.

We did it once, brutes to less-brutes,
less brutes to gentlemen and women
despite remaining “all the same
under this fancy linen”

We can do it again: re-generate generosity,
charity, mercy, kindness the Greeks and Dante,
Shakespeare and Zen, maybe we can
confound the gods and do better this time
even build a better machine that self-destructs
at just the right time.

This poem, Beyond Loneliness, is from Full of Crow:

“Beyond Loneliness”

By Angela Consolo Mankiewicz

At the edge of the ocean,
perhaps the only ocean,
you wheeze recollection
and hope into your lungs.

You have been led here
to the edge of this ocean
by the smell of salt.

The water is warm over your toes,
warmer than expected;
perhaps that is a good sign.

You turn away,
lift your chest as best you can
and raising flimsy arms, wail
one more time, a long,
hollow cry that breaks no heart.

You count the usual number
of unclocked minutes, then smile
at the familiar blank reply
freeing you to proceed.

It has been a very long time
since you had access to books
to tell you what to hold to,
what to love, what to hate,
what to respect and what to despise*
but you are no longer lost and confused.

You kneel, dig your fingers
into the sand around you
for a sting, a snap, a hop perhaps
but there is none.

Like a child, you lean on your hands
and pull yourself upright, like a child,
unburdened by shame, you turn back
to face your ocean; you are
what the world was known as; you,
it has all come down to you.

*From the last page of Dostoevsky’s Notes From Underground

Angela Consolo Mankiewicz, originally from Brooklyn, now lives in Los Angeles and is the author of four chapbooks, the newest being An Eye, from Pecan Grove Press and As If, from Little Red Books-Lummox. She has also been the Contributing Editor and Regional Editor, respectively, for the small press (now defunct) journals Mushroom Dreams and New Press Quarterly. The title of this poem refers to a 1928 short story by E.M. Forster.

You can read more of her poetry on Rusty Truck here and you can follow her blog here.