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An Upside Down World

About this Book

Knute Skinner, the St Louis Missouri-born poet, has lived in Ireland since the early Sixties, and has contributed much to the eclectic range of poetry available in Ireland and further afield. Salmon Poetry has published nine previous collections, and the latest An Upside Down World continues his variations on contemporary approaches. He manages to present an oblique style, that is less ‘upside down’, but is neither perpendicular nor parallel.

The collection has short poems like flash fiction that at times has a sense of improvised obbligato, of the moment, where small clusters of words create pen pictures or thumbnail images like Instagrams. They have an engaging quality like a filmed opening sequence, setting a diverse scene, and sometimes teasing, tantalising, changing the point of view, and then moving on.

At times, he reminds me of the stories of Raymond Carver, truth not fully told, secrets that hint at other connections. I felt I knew many of the characters he illuminates and compresses into vivid reality.

In over seventy poems he teases out several meanings and contexts. In ‘What She Said’, Andrea says “Everything you do, has a second meaning”. A few lines later it’s “a paltry reflection of love”. It is a curious world where even the offer of a cup of tea has layers of meaning, not to mention the concupiscence of cake.

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A poem like ‘Stopped Short’ deals with words that are not mentioned or written down. The sadness of ‘Stepping Out’ undercuts whatever meaning you give to this act of ‘stepping out’. ‘My Story’ has the power to shock, “The only answer that came that day was a sickening revulsion/a desire to rid my life/of the last seventeen years”.

But I loved ‘The Morning After’, “it is a day for starting over, I said to Paige/reaching out and pulling her close”.

Liam Murphy
28th January 2020 issue of The Munster Express

Read a poem from this book

The Morning After

The mellow morning air
brought with it the feel of autumn.
We stood at the top of the garden
appraising the roses.

One rose bush looked mildly marcesent,
but the other was a clear survivor
of the night’s disturbance.
An unidentified bird loudly proclaimed
a brand-new, exuberant day.

“It’s a day for starting over,” I said to Paige,
reaching out and pulling her close.

“That all depends,” she responded,
neither settling in nor pulling away.
“Which one of those rose bushes are we?”