'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
‘It’s the collection’s ongoing tussle with faith and interest in the numinous, or rather the desire to let the mind soar while also keeping one foot on the ground that wins over the reader.’ Richie McCaffery (you can read the full review here)
‘Skinner's distillation, language and imagery is just stunning. The Malvern Aviator’s title poem, in particular, drew me back again and again. What a magnificent poem! The cog-like precision, the physics, the perfect balance in it, the tangibility, the grappling, the weight and lightness, the ballast...’ Clodagh Beresford Dunne, winner of the Irish Poem of the Year
‘The Malvern Aviator is a beautiful, transcendent collection of poems which takes your breath away and makes you giddy on reading. In poems which are honed and spare, or lyrical and expansive, Richard Skinner explores philosophy, metaphysics, art and the human condition with depth – yet with such mastery the richly diverse collection has a lightness of touch which makes it as airborne as the aviator’s craft.’ Anna Saunders
‘The Malvern Aviator is wonderful stuff. Skinner is a Faber-published novelist and his narrative skill and gripping style shine throughout his poetry.’ Keith Hutson
You can buy a copy from Amazon here.