June 26, 2005

Jonathan Skinner

Sunday, June 26, 2005
7:30 pm

*Please note location*

Pacific Switchboard
4637 N. Albina Avenue
(just south of Alberta street and just east of the I-5 freeway exit. You can reach us by taking the #4 Fessenden bus.)


Please join us for a reading by Jonathan Skinner to celebrate the publication of his new book, Political Cactus Poems (Palm Press).

Jonathan Skinner edits ecopoetics in Buffalo, NY where he misidentifies birds along the Niagara River.

His work engages the various meanings of life outdoors, in the shape of a changing response to questions posed by the environments the poet physically inhabits. In part, the poetry operates as an instrument of research into a particular natural environment or a geological formation or species. In exchange, it offers forms of life measured to particular places, an invitation to inhabit the evolutionary imagination of the senses and of those places. His first book-length collection, Political Cactus Poems, which stem from the poet's life in the Southwest, challenges the pristine agenda of nature poetry by hybridizing themes from the lives of humans and cacti.


If cactuses could talk, poets be out of work. In the meantime, Jonathan Skinner's *Political Cactus Poems* are primers of attentive engagement; not only its pleasures responsibilities, but also its animations and metamorphoses. It's not just that we read what we see; Skinner imagines that we are read by what sees us. "Matter's clatter" is the echo of unheard songs. In these poems, the saguaro drinks our words and leaves us thirsty for more.
—Charles Bernstein

This is *Very* *Good* (*that's* *WHY* *I* *used* *it* when I taught at Mills, his *Little* *Dictionary* *Of* *Sounds*—I played the *Tape* *Of* *The Sounds* & GAVE THEM THE POEMS *he* *had* *written*!—*I* *didn't* *have* *to* *TEACH*!!)—*'VOCABULARY'* + *'STUDY'* (somehow) Evidences *THE* *WORLD* *AT* *LARGE* in ManyWritten Poems—BRAVO!!
—Robert Grenier

The fact is, humanity's a drop in the bucket. But only scantily has poetry looked at the rest of the bucket. Jonathan Skinner in *Political Cactus Poems* makes a wonderful stab in that omnidirection. The language lays out its dynamics "as if" human and nature were one. The reader feels connections' displays not so much in terms of grammar as of a great series of metonymic grids, that feel like chemistry. Meanings dance rather than submit to linear equations. On p. 33 one of Skinner's dense but unadorned "tope prisms" ends "spots taking on chronologies of their own expanding in a series of rotational slides not yet confirmed. For the individual, stationary in the blast of current events no true point of balance is ever found." Mostly, they show-don't-tell. These down-to-earth cylinders, pulled from the air, are forwarding explorations in the most important direction poetry can go: out. Yet they're plenty human and fun to read.

A macro-micro delight.
—Jack Collom

Jonathan Skinner with his journal *ecopoetics* has been showing us how it is all connected. all systemic, all wonderful even while at risk. The poems in *Political Cactus Poems* do similar work as they tell the sad stories of contemporary politics (Milosevic and Bush show up at various moments) with the specific stories of various cacti. These poems direct and redirect our attention to the larger ethical issues of political and natural environments. They are tight, luminous poems that illustrate how the world is more complicated than most of us acknowledge.
—Juliana Spahr

Political Cactus Poems
Price: $12.00. ISBN 0-9743181-1-6
Perfect-bound. Printed with soy-based ink on recycled
paper, 100%
post-consumer waste.
120 pages.

To order *Political Cactus Poems*, visit the press website.
Jane Sprague, Editor