What is in these books that have come to me? Ed Skoog asks in Rough Day. He then rephrases the book’s central question: What is in this body that has come to me?
Where Skoog’s previous book, Mister Skylight, looked back in shock and anger at Hurricane Katrina, Rough Day looks ahead at how to rebuild and restore a sense of identity and memory after great rupture, while preparing for the next undoing. Skoog finds in Zugunruhe (the restless behavior of animals prior to migration) a model for the imagination’s waves of creation and destruction, and a metaphor for poetry as a propulsive behavior that keeps the mind on the move.
Broc Rossell, in Boston Review, writes that “Rough Day is written in a muted and dexterous minimalism. Skoog uses that minimalism to elongate and fold perspective. The book’s experimentalism is not a style or stance, but a willingness to put poetry on trial that, as far as I can tell, goes all the way down. Skoog’s collection is relentlessly changeable, even turbulent, almost protean. This is a poetry looking for a way to run away from itself. As a result it sounds familiar, even uncanny…In fact, Rough Day engenders one of the warmer voices in recent memory: one hears something almost like a gruff friendliness when the poems are read aloud. Old Yankee virtues–restrained defiance, private grief, laconic humor, spiritual restlessness–are renewed here, but more than anything else the sensibility is admirable for its complete lack of pretense… As soon as any attitude, tone, or idea asserts itself into the poem, Skoog cuts the legs out from under it and looks to a new one, fashioning a poetry that fluctuates and ripples as incessantly as open water.”
Paul Constant, Books Editor of The Stranger, reviewed Rough Day. He writes: “It’s a poem as broad as the country, as wide as a life, and as slender as a single line of thought.”
Booklist says “These poems strive to blow the doors off the conventional lyric. Titles are dispensed with as the first line does double duty, and this is the most conventional of Skoog’s unconventional decisions. Even where the semblance of a narrative is apparent, without punctuation the poems read as a series of gestures; phrases stand on their own and gain meaning from and give meaning to their context. The uniformity gives a sense of unity, less of content than of a means to organize experience.”
The Open Books newsletter says this about the book:
Can a book be thrillingly mournful? Transportingly plainspoken? Reassuringly ominous? Rough Day, Ed Skoog’s second volume, suggests the answer is yes, most definitely. The poems are untitled and unpunctuated so that reading the collection is close to experiencing the shifting openness of film, or perhaps like walking with its author as he meditates on past and present and future in language mystical and familiar. He is a welcome companion, whose poems, inventively crafted, offer comfort not through bromide or distraction, but through tender attention and fearless honesty.
Hear an interview about the book with Ryan Young at Marfa Public Radio.
Read an interview about the book with Lillian Nickerson in Seattle’s City Arts.
Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
Trade Paper: 6 x 9, 96 pages
Pub Date: 06/11/2013