17: Skin Divers

Skin Divers by Anne Michaels

Skin Divers

Anne Michaels’s The Weight of Oranges / Miner’s Pond is probably my favorite poetry collection (really two collections in one volume) of all time. Maybe because so many of the poems are about rain.

From “Rain Makes Its Own Night” (The Weight of Oranges):

Rain makes its own night, long mornings with the lamps left on.
Lean beach grass sticks to the floor near your shoes,
last summer’s pollen rises from damp metal screens.

This is order, this clutter that fills clearings between us,
clothes clinging to chairs, your shoes in a muddy grip.

Mmm. Anyhow, Skin Divers is her third volume of poetry. This was another used bookstore find. A few weeks ago, feeling the need for a poetry fix, I plucked it off the To Read shelf and read it all in one sitting. It’s a slim volume, as they say—only 68 pages including the acknowledgments—so this was not a great feat. But… I always feel a little guilty reading a book so fast when I know how long it probably took to write it. (And that feeling is not helped by the quote on the back cover of the dust jacket which closes: “This is a book to be grateful for, to read, and be read by, slowly.”) !!! Way to pour on the guilt, Don McKay 😉 I’ll try to make up for speed with re-readings.

When I’m evaluating poetry, the most important thing for me is that it sound right. It should have rhythm. It should flow. If it sounds right, it doesn’t have to be logical. It’s poetry. So much of the “poetry” we receive at TC is clunky and prosaic. Inserting random line breaks does not turn prose into poetry. (This is what happens when people write poetry, but don’t read it, methinks. But that’s a rant for another day.)

Michaels’s poetry sounds right. It’s… deceptively simple. Some lines you might think: I (or anyone) could have written that. And then you read it again and think: wow, that’s amazing.

From “Skin Divers”:

Like the moon, I want to touch places
just by looking. To tell
new things at three in the morning, when we’re
awake with rain or any sadness, or slendering through
reeds of sleep, surfacing to skin. In this room
where so much has happened, where love
is the clink of buttons as your shirt slides
to the floor, the rolling sound of loose change;
a book half open, clothes
half open. Again we feel
how transparent the envelope
of the body, pushed through the door
of the world.

Oh, hey. Rain again 🙂