Skin (Walt McDonald First-Book) Paperback – 30 Apr 2013
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About the Author
April Lindner is also the author of the poetry collection This Bed Our Bodies Shaped and two novels, Jane, a modernization of Jane Eyre, and Catherine, a modernization of Wuthering Heights (forthcoming in 2013). A professor of English at Saint Joseph’s University, Lindner lives in Havertown, Pennsylvania, with her husband and sons.
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She continues to inspire, as demonstrated by "Counterpoint," a 10-poem sequence that forms the second part of Skin, April Lindner's debut volume of verse. "Counterpoint" is subtitled "Poems on the Life of Alma Mahler Werfel" and follows Alma from her childhood visits to her father's studio (Emile Schindler was a well-known landscape painter), when she would "practice keeping still... to watch his hand propel the brush," up to 1964 in New York City, when she finds that death "is handsome /... and he, too, needs me /... his whispered proposal... clumsy / but ardent..." The sequence ends with a line so good it would be as wrong to quote it as to tell whodunit in a murder mystery.
Skin is the 11th winner of the Walt McDonald First-Book Poetry Prize, awarded by Texas Tech University Press and named in honor of a former TTUP poetry editor. Lindner, who teaches English at St. Joseph's University, seems well-deserving. She has a sharp eye for detail: "daylight, rationed by Venetian slats," "the white moth of a kiss / blown from a boy's plump lips," "burnt / sienna moustache," "milky way of red freckles" - these are picked at random from just two pages. She also has a well-nigh flawless ear for lyrical phrases graced by the uneven rhythm extolled by the French symbolist Paul Verlaine.
Occasionally, especially in the opening section, she gets a little too personal for my taste. Having no wish to be a voyeur, even if invited, I found the intimacies related in "Condom," for instance, off-putting.
But at her best, what she says of contemporary realist painter William Bailey - "once he's got us, he makes us see / deeper than we'd choose" - is also true of Lindner. The last stanza of "Moving" - from one residence to another - transmits a subtly disturbing frisson:
Last, we'll pierce the wall
to hang the faces we call ours:
bride face, groom face, infant face,
their interiors locked and off-limits,
like rooms we lived in, houses ago.
Robert Fink, the man who chose Skin for publication, has written an introduction that offers a "close reading" of Lindner's texts that borders on parody. Oh well. For those who like that sort of thing, that's the sort of thing they like. Read it, if you must, but do yourself and Lindner a favor and read the poems first.