'The Malvern Aviator' (Smokestack, 2018)
In language that is both precise and strange, Skinner’s poems tip certainties on their heads, making familiar objects in the world unfamiliar: a mountain is not what it seems; a watch prevents self-destruction; a skull contains a universe. Alongside this process of ‘making-strange’ lies a deep connection with sound, colour, temperature and scent that brings the poems fully to life. Questions of faith run through many of the poems, with subjects ranging from the early Protestant sect known as the Lollards, Buddhist Bardos to the Roman Catholic saint called Fabiola. But there are personal poems too: a summer affair, a miner’s complaint, family narratives about his grandmother’s difficult marriage and his mother’s time abroad as a young au pair. These poems engage with form—the cento, the cinquain, the unrhymed sonnet, cut-ups, free verse—in enigmatic, other-worldy ways that constantly surprise and please.
'In Richard Skinner's supple and elegant poems, the known and unknown rise and fall like fish in a deep pool, leaving hairline cracks and moonsick hearts. A beautiful collection, full of mysterious clarity.' Catherine Ayres
'Richard Skinner’s The Malvern Aviator carries a freight of deep poetic intelligence tempered with playfulness, a clear eye, and an entirely welcome desire to explore its subjects without eviscerating them. The language is precise and clear, opening onto an understated sensory realm that looks to feel the edges of the world.' George Szirtes
“i found myself more truly and more strange”
- Richard Skinner, from “Found”
'These works – and words – are born of a tightening of the eye, until a landscape resolves into witness; each constructs a conversation with objet, persons (both dead and living), locations. It is an eye which hovers above and descends into explicit and fine-tuned contexts; the shard of broken glass and the sky it reflects, upwards. And – in the same breath – there is the linguist's mind, which sharpens its knife, sluices opening; “metonymy” - Skinner urges - “sheds light on desire”, where desire is a relationship of two parts coming together, closely, until their skin is touching, only to reveal the want that separates them. Skinner's poems – and the “things” they coalesce from (broadly, broadly conceived) – create a tracery of wants in the writer's language; the want to contain, and the want to un-contain, to blow the machinery apart until it is a field of components. It is the poet who moves through them, stopping here and there to pick them up; stopping to discard them, until the moment is left over: “keeping each needle where it should be”; precision contains within it, in these works, the endless, deep blue of a “falling into”. Skinner is the aviator-writer, urging the craft into everything a sky might hold; and clearly still more than that, which the wings do not touch, and are not held up by.' Owen Vince
Coming April 2018