Review: SKIN HORSE by Olivia Cronk
Review by MATTHEW MAHANEY
As others have pointed out, Skin Horse is not your standard book of poems, first or otherwise. This is not surprising if you’ve read Olivia Cronk’s poems in various journals over the past few years, and/or other titles by Action Books. Devoid of titles and section breaks, the often brief poems work equally well when read independently or as part of a longer whole.
Skin Horse also eschews many standard book elements, doing without the typical front-matter of title page, publisher info, table of contents, and acknowledgements. These come at the end, after the reader has finished tunneling their way through the many landscapes, characters and voices Cronk creates.
After reading Skin Horse repeatedly, both in order and out, after keeping it close and opening to random pages to delight in the costumed creatures and their colloquial blurts, it seemed not only easiest but necessary to use Olivia Cronk’s own words rather than analyze, describe, or praise her poetry. The more I tried, the more I realized my words were too ungainly to do the job.
Regarding Skin Horse,*
I think you will find it does not drip right. It slips so nicely in. A mirrory pink locket all broke open to unfold the awkward beast. Then I am in the room against hot horse curtains and it is knees up to keep dry.
We may see the air go hard in the broken language of this place. It will rain rats and I am no longer interested in the deal. I have had a hand in it. I am soon to be torn. Today we take the air.
Am I hearing you right? Talk about weeds—milky and luxurious and moving up the cement.
There is one dark hair in the bathwater. There is in the bathwater one hair. I hear it turn to fire. And crackles a little sapphire on sister’s collar. The dropping never stops.
This is Real. This is all in. I am not nervous from here, no, my man, I am not even a mouse’s gape. I’ve got all night for this shit.
*all that follows is taken from Skin Horse, via the “flip to a random page and see what delights you find there, repeat” method. What appears here is just one of many possible results, though I suspect any achieved via this method would be equally accurate and enjoyable.