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Knute Skinner

ISBN: 1 903392 23 3

Page Count: 92

Publication Date: Monday, April 01, 2002

Cover Artwork: Noreen Walshe

Click to play audio Knute Skinner reads "Attendance" from Stretches (2... play
Click to play audio Knute Skinner reads "The Window Seat" from Stretch... play

About this Book

Stretches, Knute Skinner's first full-length collection in six years, contains not only the depth but also the uncommon variety his readers have come to expect of him. Tender and witty love poems coexist with brief narratives and satirical sketches. Lyrical responses to nature interact with spiritual responses to the material world. These poems, diverse in subject and tone, represent the accomplishment of a life's dedication to a poet's art and craft. Skinner's language is accessible but crackles with apt surprise. The collection stretches, and it invites the reader to stretch with it.

Author Biography

Knute Skinner lives in Killaspuglonane, County Clare, his home for the past thirty-eight years. His poetry has appeared widely in Ireland, Britain, Australia and North America. For some years he taught literature and creative writing part of each year at Western Washington University. He has worked as director of the Signpost Press and editor of The Bellingham Review, as well as serving on the editorial board of New Series-Departures. He is the author of 13 collections of poetry, 6 of them with Salmon Poetry, and he has poems in numerous anthologies, including Irish Poetry Now and Or Volge L'Anno-At the Year's Turning: An Anthology of Irish Poets Responding to Leopardi. He is married to Edna Faye Kiel, who is the subject of some of these poems.  His most recent collection of poetry, Fifty Years: 1957-2007, was published by Salmon in 2007.

Read a sample from this book

A Hush
A hush settled on the street.
Looking about me,
I saw everyone stopped.
Motionless, some were on footpaths,
feet raised in arrested stride.
Others, their moments exposed
to the oncoming traffic,
were halted - as were all the cars.
Was I moving myself?
At some point I must have moved,
leaving behind me children
gripped by their mothers' hands
and women in old cloth coats
burdened by bags
and young men jacketed bright
on errands of trust.
Here I am, so surely I moved,
back into a world which never,
from one breath to the next,
coincides with the world before.


Joseph Green in The Washington Poets Association Newsletter, Fall 2002:

I have known Knute Skinner for nearly twenty-five years, and I think of him as a close friend even though I don't see him very often, now that he make his home full-time in Ireland. Consequently, reading the poems collected in Stretches has been a special pleasure for me.

This new book brings together several paths that Skinner's poems have followed in the past. His first full collection, Stranger with A Watch (Golden Quill, 1965), was rich with the music of rhymes and meters, as are many of the poems in Stretches. One of the new book's four sections is a series titled "Thematic Variations: Eight Songs", wherein each poem is divided into two contrasting halves, the entire group laced together with repeating motifs of love and death, sleep and wakefulness, and the immensity of the cosmos in contrast to the human place within it. The poems move gracefully, on rhymes that are at once surprising and inevitable, as in these lines from the last segment:

But when sunshine punched its timecard
and illuminated north and south
then the dog brought in the paper
with the headlines in its mouth.

In two of his prior collections from Salmon Poetry, The Bears and Other Poems (1991) and What Trudy Knows (1994), Skinner took his voice and vision in a new direction, with suggestive narratives in the voice of personae who were often disaffected or disturbed and were, consequently, also a bit disturbing. That sensibility carries over into some of these new poems as well, though it frequently plays out in third person, as in "The Gap", where a character recalls an act of voyeurism out of which he has lost his taste for fish, "remembering as he does how long he stood there, / unable to walk away, holding the trout."

Some of these poems record events and observations almost journalistically, but their point of focus takes them in unexpected directions. This, too, is a familiar path for long-time readers of Skinner's poetry, but it is one that I would be sorry to see him leave behind. In Stretches, these scenes frequently involve Edna Faye Kiel, with whom Skinner is married. In the last poem of the book, "The Window Seat," Skinner says he "found Edna stretched out there, / absorbing the sun" in such a manner that he thought she looked like a cat, and he asked whether she purred. She yawned, told him, 'That's how we yawn," and turned away, regally feline: "Fetch me some mice," she added, "/ and maybe I'll purr." I won't spoil the ending, but it is pitch-perfect.

Finally, this collection is a handsome book indeed. The front cover portrait, originally drawn in pencil by Noreen Walshe, captures something in Knute's expression that suggests the agility of his wit, a quality displayed in abundance through these pages. Stretches is available for purchase directly from Salmon Poetry at It's worth whatever stretches might be required to put it into your personal library.

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