'Terrace' (Smokestack, 2015)
The Argentinian writer Borges once observed that the 'imminence of a revelation which does not occur is, perhaps, the aesthetic phenomenon.' Terrace is a book of short-stories and short-films in verse, told through oblique glances, hints and understatements, landscapes and lists, ekphrasis and myth, cut-ups and haiku. It is a book about the meanings of perfume, light and colour, exploring the world in a series of striking images, and juxtaposing them in unexpected ways to reveal at the end the ‘bigger picture’ that was always there, only hidden.
'We were particularly struck by these poems, each of them having this brilliant, crisp and extremely elegant confidence with image and sound—this sense of history, materiality and the senses brushing against each other.' Owen Vince, HARK magazine.
‘There is a lovely care for the sounds of language here.’ George Szirtes
'inescapably moreish...' Stride magazine
'Richard Skinner’s new pamphlet contains some intriguingly enigmatic poems, many of which manage to be simultaneously elusive and memorable. Close observations of sound, colour, temperature and scent blend in poems that are muscular, musical, taut and atmospheric. There’s nothing extraneous here, and despite the complexity and variety of much of the subject matter, concision, clarity and precision of language make these poems easy to read. Overall, Skinner is not interested in writing sentimental renderings of events or offering neat one-dimensional snapshots, nor is he writing to ‘surprise’ for the sake of it. None of these poems contain pat ‘conclusions’ or ‘truths’; rather, they leave one with a sense, as Louis MacNeice wrote, of the world being ‘Incorrigibly plural,’ a sense of ‘The drunkenness of things being various,’ (MacNeice again): a sense that life is made up of contrasting and co-existing perceptions. There’s an impressive originality to this work and enough variation in subject and depth of intrigue to reward repeated readings. I look forward to seeing a full collection from Richard Skinner in future.' Roy Marshall, The Interpreter's House (read the full review here)
'Skinner is a tactile thinker; reading, to him, is undoubtedly an acutely sensory experience. His lyricism is supreme, and his refined sense of musicality, to which he seems to have devoted countless hours, is the beating heart of the collection; its influence is felt in every extremity.' Felix Cassiel, The Recusant (read the full review here)
'Richard Skinner’s Terrace is a series of poems like a row of linked houses or steps, where we spectators stand to watch the match of Life v Death. A terrace is also a natural shelf, a place of rest. This slim pamphlet deserves its place on any library shelf. Skinner opens with a gnomic epigraph by the Russian Formalist critic Victor Shklovsky: “grief as heavy as red corals”. The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar’, to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. He has a disciple here. Richard Skinner’s collection of twenty-two poems tantalises with hints and glimpses, sleights-of-hand, panache. The first poem is titled ‘The Structure of Magic’, and there’s a feeling of smoke and mirrors about the whole collection, a maestro exploiting the panoply of poetic prestidigitation at his disposal.' John Davies, Sabotage Reviews (read the full review here)
'Richard Skinner is skilled at unpacking the moment. His observations, like drops of ink into a bowl of water, blossom out in unexpected directions, unfolding and unfurling the world. His language is deceptively simple. It’s almost possible to miss the way that he plays with sound to draw the reader to a conclusion. The work engages the senses with a studied intensity taking them almost to the edge of comfort. He uses ekphrasis, haiku, lists as litany, to interrogate the instant and out pour colour, perfume, light, life, and death. They are laid out before us for observation. They are the What and the How. The Why is a personal exploration of his own place in the maelstrom of Time. This is the thread that runs through every poem in the collection. The question is one of where he stands and what that means. What does that mean for a man? And, given a man’s place in time, how does he move forward? “They say that a Yew can walk an acre in a year.” If so, how far might a man walk? How far might I walk? And do I have the wisdom to do that? The work of Richard Skinner is a beautiful example of condensed questioning.' Rachel Stirling, stirlingwriter
'The cover art is beautiful and reflects the lushness of these poems. The reader enters a world of mysterious landscapes, exotic birds and re-imagined histories. The sky takes centre stage here, whether we’re being blinded by a ‘sunrise blow-torch’ (‘Three Landscapes’), up high looking down (‘Each of these cimiteri is like a Chinese character / legible only from the sky’ (‘Isola di San Michele, Venice’) or on a high ridge (‘the sky like bits of blue material, / yet still immaterial.’ (‘Pillar’). There’s an smooth elegance about these poems, but this is no travelogue of gorgeous landscapes. Alongside the oleanders, curaçao and eucalyptus we meet challenging characters and situations. ‘You wait for the men to come, with rouged lips, / brace yourself for the arms and the turn of the lock.’ (‘Indoor Pallor’). A sinister organisation hints at dark activities in a totalitarian-regime-style press release (‘The Monarch Foundation’.) A rich and intriguing collection. Favourite poem: ‘Isola di San Michele, Venice’.' Robin Houghton
'Sometimes there’s nothing apparently poetic about a poem, but it just is. Poetry, I mean. For example, "My grandmother’s things"... "Death in a French Garden" is another piece that centres on things, and it’s done with loving precision, held together by that gorgeous title ... I don’t want to give the impression that Richard Skinner just creates lists. He does far more than that. Even the lists are not just lists. And occasionally—at his best, as they say—he can make the move from precise thing-ness into a totally abstract line, and it’s magnificent.' Nell Nelson, editor of HappenStance Press (click here for the full review)
'[There is] all the fascination with narrative I found in Skinner's last book, and the unexpected endings that leave us staring at bigger, perhaps bleaker, landscapes, but moved into more various poetic shapes. 'A lot in life is learning to like blue' indeed. The kick at the end of "Death in a French Garden". And the intensity and verbal richness of the short poems of the natural world. Congratulations!' Alasdair Paterson, author of on the governing of empires
'Terrace is a beautifully written book, with poems that are both personal and very big at the same time. "Budgerigar" and "Two Views of the Lacemaker" are wonderful, but I single them out unfairly because each poem in this collection is so well-crafted that they give pleasure time and time again. "The Owl" is a short poem that speaks volumes about this magnificent creature in six lines. George Szirtes says 'There is a lovely care for the sounds of language here' and he's dead right. Buy this book, and you're in for twenty two treats!' Keith Hutson, editor of Hinterland magazine
You can buy a copy of Terrace direct from Smokestack here.
Or from Amazon here.