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Skin, Inc.

  • Image: Image
  • Book Type: Poetry
  • by: Thomas Sayers Ellis
  • Date Published: September 2010
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555975678
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Pages: 176pp
  • Price: $23.00
  • Review by: C.J. Opperthauser

Ellis’s collection of poems, Skin, Inc, is an aggressive book to say the least. It is a statement in itself. A statement that is different and powerful. The language coursing through the veins of this collection is raw, real, and full of earnest emotion. It is calm, yet aggressive. Strong, yet tamed. One poem that really sets the tone for the first portion of the book is “My Meter Is Percussive”:

so throughout this worry,
I am rolling my eyes.
I am sucker-punching I,
the I that informs
these lines    like
only I    know I    know how.
I am breathing,
repairing, breathing,
half-interested in progress
and half-interested
in progression, never finished.

Ellis knows how to take an idea and make it clear while having his fun with language and the way the words and lines look on the page. Beyond this first section of the book, which is largely traditional in its style and form, is a section with photos, dealing with African American life of the past and things of the like. Among these, and my favorite, is an elegy to James Brown that is really more like a celebration of his life and work. It's a fun piece. The photos on the page beside the poems include a caption under the poem. The captions are really just beautiful poems to accompany the picture more closely.

Later, Ellis explores the boundaries of words on the page with a section called The Pronoun-Vowel Reparations Song. The latter part of this section includes this gem, embodied on one page:

A   P   O
L   O   G
I    Z   E

Issues of African American life, life in general, relationships, history—it's all here. This is a strong collection that is all at once ambitious, aggressive, experimental, and calm.

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Review Posted on December 01, 2010

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