‘Dream into Play’ (Poetry Salzburg, 2022)
‘The mysteries in Richard Skinner’s work – images or accounts sometimes just touched on, just touched-in – are compelling; they shape the poems’ scope and substance. As a group, these poems pester and perturb, they will get under your skin, might leave a bruise, will press you to re-read, rediscover, re-imagine. In that way, Skinner’s contract with his reader is both genuine and generous.’
— David Harsent, winner of the TS Eliot Prize
‘Dream into Play is another wonderful offering from Skinner’s brilliantly elegant and dexterous lexicon. Drenched with colour, shade and often emerging from behind subtle screens, these are poems of deep intelligence, of gentle salve, of measured playfulness. They are poems that make us think differently about the texture and calibration of language, the slow veiling and unveiling of imagery, of personal revelation. A meticulous craftsman, Skinner teaches us that the poet, like Atropos, must “Hold my tongue, and when the time comes, measure twice, cut once.”’
— Clodagh Beresford Dunne, winner of the Irish Poem of the Year Award
‘Dreams and play are central to the possibilities of how language can transform grief into an aesthetic object to be handled and contemplated in the wake of bereavement. Skinner’s astonishing craft is something readers of his work have come to expect, but the sheer inventiveness and level of risk-taking in Dream into Play is startling. References to other art mediums and classical and popular culture are all part of the poet’s palette. The rich intertextuality that he melds into transformational poetry is a way of bearing the unbearable – giving it appreciable value. Skinner makes sense of grief through wordplay, paradox and inventiveness. Like a cubist artist, he collages fragments from deep personal experience, dreams, art and culture. In an ironically exhilarating exploration of loss, these poems give back what has been taken through exceptional creative force.’
— Lisa Kelly, author of A Map towards Fluency
‘This is a densely-packed pamphlet to reread and savour. Skinner's lyrical poems brim with his trademark intertextuality, intelligence and wit. Skinner's poems seem infused with Eastern philosophy and consider the transient nature of reality/dream/illusion. Though sometimes dealing with abstract ideas, the poems are rooted in materiality of the poet's emotional and personal experiences. Skinner counters his philosophies with witty wordplay, such as “Crocodile Mother”, where the words 'tears' and 'mothers' are interchanged. Skinner's poems explore the nature of what makes up our individual worlds. This pamphlet is likely to become a personal favourite.’
— Mary Mulholland, The Alchemy Spoon 7
‘Skinner’s poetry investigates the importance of language, which seems to be the last anchor that allows humanity to make sense of life and death. His critical approach is therefore not hollow but reveals the transformation of personal memories into literary products. The powerfulness that the poet experiences as a human being becomes the creative centre of his exploration which refuses solutions and accepts contradictions and estrangement but is also open to a vital flowing of energy that gives space to silence, shadows and possible redeemed scenarios.’
— Carla Scarano, London Grip (You can read the full review here.)
‘Dream into Play is a slim volume of allusive, elusive, laconic poems by a well-established writer, who clearly knows what he is doing. I will confess that I myself didn't always know exactly what he was doing, and I did have frequent recourse to Google to enrich my understanding, but, despite and/or because of that, I enjoyed the collection and would now like to read more of his poems and books. I was left with a powerful sense of having encountered a clever, provocative, disciplined and ludic writer, who challenged me to consider and interpret the images he evoked – no easily accessible emotional slop here!’
— Rowena Summerville, The High Window
Note: The text that follows is collaged variously from the poems in the collection. Quotations are faithfully represented.
I have been swallowing lemons whole. What is this here? A setting? A plot? Struggle on—almost with a sense of disappointment. When we understand, there may not even be a mystery. The sea rolls in--
[...] all the hurt, unsaid, never
solved, lapping up on some distant shore.
("The Real Star")
But then all that apprehension melts away. Centuries before that, he was about to die. It is not easy. It's the kind of knowledge no man grasps on his own. A better design hits you full in the face:
While sitting, lift your poem off the ground. Rotate your poem at the
ankles counterclockwise. Repeat ten times, then reverse the direction.
(“Poems in the Restroom”)
The truth a poem emplaces often lies in its pattern. But who knows? Whichever way I look, what to hold on to? I am not inflexible. It is just that you are dazzled by the angle of entry, all the kinks and knots of us, for all to see: 'Words […] run in sluices' (“The Gift”).
Poems are unloaded as freight. We have walked side by side into spaces where light has spilled in. A door clicks and falls open, the opening door, not the wide-open space, the see-through paper door into this brilliant corner… Walking is nothing but a controlled way of falling.
I believe I am being conducted to the invisible world. One is thus brought to some strange lessons in reading. Necessity is the tears of invention. The critic is nothing other than a commentator.
When the time comes, feast on words flowing endlessly:
You yourself go underground
dissolving at the bottom
My large blue wife
is holding the wrong hand
(“Life in a Oncetime”)
I have no delusions—life and work are pure graft, the truth lies elsewhere. I don't want to say anything like a review of a film or a book. We have all turned into sunflowers.
— Helena Nelson, Sphinx
‘Richard Skinner’s new book Dream into Play (Poetry Salzburg) is also about grief. But where Fran Lock writes about loss with a rich eloquence, Skinner leaves the important things deliberately unsaid. These are brief, painful, minimalist fragments, half-stories, without context or explanation. The best poem in the book is the brilliant ‘Crocodile Mother’ which swaps the words ‘Mother’, ‘Mum’ and ‘tears’ in a list of broken, everyday phrases:
‘Mother gets in your eyes. / The tracks of my mother. The mother of a clown… Blood, sweat and mother. The tears of all battles. / Keep tears. Tears tongue. Tears of God / Holding back the mother. Burst into mother. / Super tears. Wicked steptears. / Crocodile mother...’’
— Andy Croft, Morning Star
‘‘Crocodile mother’ really is a great poem - the reader’s gradual realisation of what’s going on, that ‘wrongness’ of language is hiding ‘wrongness’ of relations, the mental flip-flap between reading ‘tears’ and ‘mother’…’
— Harriet Truscott
‘… a poem about an artist, a poem about a deer. Flicking back and forth: poems about film, quite a few word-game and list poems, Atropos, Japanese screens, exercise, Barthes, music bands — an eclectic mix.’
— Jane Routh, The Friday Poem (You can read the full review here.)
‘I sense Skinner and I are tracking through some similar territories. Current favourites include “Shōji”, “Ken/Keeping Still, Mountain”, “Stretch (You Are All Right)” and “The Gift”. I have the same sense of enjoyment/recognition that I got when first reading Christopher Middleton.’
— Peter Didsbury, author of A Fire Shared.
‘This is my well-loved pamphlet by Richard Skinner. So much within these pages. Every poem startles and surprises.’
— Anna Saunders
‘This filmic sequence revealing Richard Skinner’s skill—carefully crafted poems—creates a collage of an exploration of grief.’
— Maria Isakova-Bennett
You can read “Band Aid”, “White” & “Life in a Oncetime” here.
You can read “Atropos” here.
You can read “The Black Objects” here.
You can order a copy directly from Poetry Salzburg here.
Alternatively, if you would like a signed copy for £8 incl. p&p (please add £4 for Europe / £6 for the rest of the world), you can purchase a copy via PayPal using: email@example.com