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of the three sections in Skillman’s book. She also turns to of domestic objects and events, a theme that wends its him in “Ah Vallejo”: way through many of the poems with recurring images of gardens, kitchens, tables, chairs, clocks, children’s toys, After you left Peru forever, and fabrics as well as the activities of planting, cooking, you made of guano Trilce, caring for a sick child, sewing, packing up and moving that stands on the border to a new home, ironing, and making love. Even the most of every season… ordinary and caring activity, such as placing an armful of peonies in a vase, has the potential to cause damage ...Here on the island and anguish. Part of Skillman’s genius is to provide a of October, I mimic you way to step back from such straight-jacketed moments, by copying your sadness. to look at the situation from a different point of view— Persephone’s, for example, or Tiresius’. Ah, but not for long. Skillman is too wise to stay Tiresius, Apollo’s blind soothsayer, was a too long or too close to any one artist as she searches wanderer known for his penchant to predict the future for her own unique path. In addition to Vallejo, she also by listening to birdsong, observing copulating snakes, turns to Eliot (Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock), Thornton and reading patterns of smoke. “Swaybacked” doesn’t Wilder (Our Town), Kafka, Shakespeare (The Tempest, linger on Tiresius, but learning something about him Midsummer Night’s Dream, and adds richness to the experience of the Hamlet), William Logan’s poem poem. Tiresius’ pursuits also reflect the “Paris in Winter,” Mike Nichols’ restless, searching that permeates the 1967 movie The Graduate, and poems in the first two sections, the Richard Strauss’ Burleske. Each indirect, reticent yet focused, oracleallusion adds new perspective like flash of Skillman’s eye. and meaning. In addition to Persephone I first met Judith and Tiresius, a number of other Skillman at a potluck in mythological and literary characters Kirkland hosted by Barbara appear in House of Burnt Offerings, Molloy, a mutual writer-friend. including: Lethe, Ariel (The Tempest), Judith was teaching at Bellevue Hippodamia, centaurs, dopplegangers, Community College and had St. Sebastian, Ophelia, krakens, recently returned from a Artemis, Hera, Gretel (Hansel and residency at the Centrum Gretel), and Alice (Alice in Wonderland). Foundation in Port Townsend. I It’s a generous move on Skillman’s part. was immediately taken by her Individually, each character adds his or wit and her interest in her own take on situations. Together science—we both made a they create a sort of cacophony Judith Skillman valiant effort to chat about the that accumulates with each page, physicist Brian Greene’s chaos increasing the discomfort that weaves theories while chasing our young children around the its way throughout the first two sections of this book. living room. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to sit in Of course, one doesn’t have to look up every allusion to on a number of Judith’s workshops, lectures, and enjoy these poems. The sheer number of fragmented readings, and I often turn to her excellent Broken Lines— fairy tales, myths, and folk tales mentioned by Skillman The Art & Craft of Poetry (Lummux Press 2013) for emphasize just how hard it is to find any single narrative inspiration. She’s one of the most generous, widely thread that’s complex enough and right enough to hold published poets I’ve ever met, and this same spirit of the unique entanglements of a person’s life. offerings imbues her latest book. Reading Skillman is like I appreciate how Skillman widens the sense of receiving a shot of language energy. Reading her makes community in these poems to include other writers, living me want to sit down and write. What greater gift from and dead, especially the Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo, another writer? whose lines from Trilce, written in prison, introduce each

Cirque, Vol. 7 No. 1  

A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim

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