Richard Skinner is a novelist, essayist and poet as well as being one of the driving forces at the Faber Academy. His new pamphlet ‘Terrace’ is due to be published by Smokestack in April 2015.
I had an opportunity to ask him what this new collection is about.
Here is his reply:
The 22 poems in ‘Terrace’ were all written 2008-14. I didn’t put in any poems written before then into the collection because they seem distant to me now, almost as if written by someone else. It’s other people who are best at identifying any common themes running through your work and my editor at Smokestack, Andy Croft, describes ‘Terrace’ as 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 a ‘bigger picture’ that was always there, only hidden.’
The 22 poems published together allow me to see what interests me most in terms of form and technique. For example, I love lists and the idea of ‘list as litany’ and there are a couple of poems that are just lists of objects, but these objects take on a special significance, a near-sacredness even. In “Death in a French Garden”, the bottles of medicine are metonyms of a mysterious death. We don’t see what happens, only what remains after the event. “My grandmother’s things” is a list of things belonging to her that I have kept and which now act as aides-memoire. In making these lists, I’m writing about what’s tangible and visible as a way of talking about what’s intangible and invisible.
There are a couple of poems based on Greek myth/Biblical characters. I have always been fascinated by the Orpheus myth and every poet has to write a poem about him, don’t they? Orpheus’ ‘mistake’ lies in his desire, which leads him to see and possess Eurydice when he is only destined to sing about her. Only in song does Orpheus have power over Eurydice, but he loses Eurydice because he desires her beyond the power of the song, and he loses himself too. “Nefertiti” is a very earthy poem about sights, sounds and the smell of: ‘neroli, of oris butter,/ the roots of iris-floral,/ obscenely fleshy, like the odour/ beneath a breast or between buttocks.’
Some poets whose style and subject matter are close to my own heart are: Wallace Stevens, Sylvia Plath, Ian Hamilton. More recently: Pauline Stainer, Michael Symmons Roberts, Marion Tracy. And whichever way you turn, there is always TS Eliot. Short poems work best for me. I love the super-condensation of a short lyric or imagist poem. Short dense poems can expand your mind in every direction and the shorter the poem is, the more expansive it is. For me, that’s what David Burnett was getting at when he said,
‘Prose adds. A poem multiplies.’
You can find further details here