NEW HOPE INTERNATIONAL REVIEW

An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
KNUTE SKINNER: FIFTY YEARS: POEMS 1957-2007
Salmon Poetry
Knockeven
Cliffs of Moher
Co.Clare
Ireland
ISBN 978 1 903392 61 4
15

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KNUTE SKINNER: FIFTY YEARS: POEMS 1957-2007

Born in the USA, Knute Skinner has lived in Ireland since 1964. This book collects his work from the past fifty years. Skinner is a quiet, unshowy poet with an eye for the everyday detail that some may not consider worthy of a poem, for example, BLACKHEADS. A lot of the poems are domestic, taking as their starting point small moments in the relationships between people or with pets, as in A CAT'S PURR:

	The nice thing about a cat's purr
	is knowing your cat is happy
	and taking credit for it.
Sometimes individual poems are so low key that the reader could almost miss their point, though A VERY GOOD DAY is so touching precisely because of the understatement in the description of the domestic life of this police officer and his young wife. Poems such as THE INTERVIEW will provoke a smile of recognition in many readers as they also make a point about the impersonal nature of corporate life.

Many of the earlier poems are set in a farming landscape, where he can make the ordinary become extraordinary, as in this excerpt from THE COW:

	As usual with cows she is eating grass.
	Nothing strange about that, except that the light,
	the white light of the sun increases her white
	until she seems like a moon reflecting the sun
Skinner is skilled at putting things in perspective, either by juxtapositioning everyday life with world events, as in APRIL - JUNE 1968:
	When we look back on the year of assassinations,
	I'll remember this garden in Killaspuglonane
or as in A SALIENT FACT where he reflects with quiet acceptance on the fact that it is only chance that brings us to our particular life:
	But I'll tell you I've grown accustomed
	to the rest of my life.
	To the woman who cooks my meals.
	To my regular paycheck.
	To children who ask for money
	for this thing or that.
In OUR CRAB APPLE TREE, he similarly accepts with good grace the loss of a favourite tree:
	It took John Murphy no more than a few hours
	to cut the tree down and shape it into useful pieces.
	It will take us no more than a few months
	to burn the small logs in our Stanley range.
	But from now on there will be more light in the house
	and we'll have a new view of Michael Healy's meadow.
Several of the poems use adopted personae, both male and female to tell insignificant stories in the first person. For me these didn't work. Generally however, Skinner's poems show how small details collected together are important in offering up a complete picture of a life as he writes in NOTHING EVER LOST:
	Remember phrases and gestures,
	an eloquent eyebrow,
	the bend of an arm.
	Then nothing is ever lost.

reviewer: Juliet Wilson.