Richard Skinner

 

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Poetry

Publications
Since 1988, I have had eight volumes of poetry
published, namely:

Leaping & Staggering (Dilettante, 1988; 2nd edition 1996) more >

In The Stillness (Dilettante, 1990) more >

The Melting Woman (Blue Button, 1993) more >

Still Staggering (Dilettante, 1995) more >

Echoes of Eckhart (Cairns/Arthur James, 1998) more >

The Logic of Whistling (Cairns 2002) more >

Invocations
(Wild Goose, 2005) more >

A Brief Poetry of Time (Oversteps Books, 2016) more >

Leaping & Staggering
A collection which the literary magazine
Westwords' called "impressive", the events
publication Event South-West called "an
impressive debut", and the Grauniad
newspaper called "Leaning & Staggering".

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In The Stillness
A sequence of 16 poems based on the writings of the 14th century English mystic, Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love. Robert Llewelyn, the then chaplain of the Julian Cell in Norwich, wrote of them that "they admirably catch the spirit of Julian and illuminate aspects of her teaching".

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Still Staggering
The titular sequel to Leaping & Staggering, the highlight of which is the set of five 'Falcon Sonnets' that according to the reviewer in The Dart "startle and delight". The book, he continues, "...is a wonderful collection, that contains much I will treasure and re-read".
Regrettably, this title is also currently out-of-print, but the Falcon Sonnets are included in the later collection 'The Logic of Whistling'.

Regrettably, this title is currently out-of-print.

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Echoes of Eckhart
A set of 74 short, pithy poems - haiku-like in quality - based on the teachings of the 13th/14th century German mystic, Meister Eckhart.

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Invocations
A set of 40 meditative poems in the tradition of the 'Advent Antiphons', but incorporating symbolism from creation, science, technology and human psychology. A Swedish edition Anrop has appeared (Verbum, 2006) which includes an extra 'Invocation' dedicated to Sweden's greatest - or at least most famous - export: O Abba.

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The Melting Woman
A collection with the long title poem at its heart, about which the literary magazine Odyssey wrote "(the title poem) is worth getting the book for alone, but Richard Skinner is a skilful poet and the rest of the collection is especially satisfying with several good, lyrical, contemplative, sometimes humorous pieces to enjoy".
Regrettably, this title is currently out-of-print.


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The Logic of Whistling
A set of 18 poems in homage to RS Thomas opens this collection, which is closed by ten speculations on the 'gap' between the finger of God and the finger of Adam in Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam.
In between are poems on, among other things, a garden pond, Wittgenstein, solitude, Russian icons, as well as a prize winning sestina on the comedian Peter Cook.

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From The Logic of Whistling
Lacking the Latin
I've never attempted to achieve my potential
- Peter Cook

A cap, a mac, a monotone were all
That you required to make us cry with laughter:
Ignoramus Pete, a pompous judge,
Wisty with his Interesting Facts,
Sir Arthur teaching ravens how to fly
In water, a foul-mouthed yob, a leaping nun.

Would-be copycats appeared, but none
Remotely had your speed of wit and all
Of us agreed, whenever you let fly
Another shaft, that in creating laughter
You were supreme. The outcome of these facts?
Success for life, as far as we could judge.

But we admirers soon became you judge
And jury. We wanted more and more. When none
Or very little came, and when the facts
Emerged of private grief - the booze, the all-
Too-common family rows, divorce - our laughter
Waned. Had Cookie been too smart, too fly?

A comic Icarus who'd tried to fly
Beyond himself? A genius who couldn't judge
The real range of his potential laughter?
We shook our heads, drank beer, discussed how none
Of us, had we your gifts, would let it all
Disintegrate... A waste... But facts are facts...

Yet when we come at last to face the facts
Of our own lives, of how we've let time fly
Pursuing gross fatuities and all
The trivia our better selves would judge
To be as batty as your leaping nun,
Your best response will be sardonic laughter.

Perhaps we too should now dismiss with laughter
Attempts to claim as scientific facts
Alleged potentials. What if we have none?
Or no more than a donkey or a fly?
Your miner, who aspired to be a judge
Had he the Latin, answers for us all.

Laughter is just laughter. A fly's a fly.
There are no other facts by which to judge
Our lives, or those of others. None at all.

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From Invocations

O DNA
spring of life, coiled for life,
cell-centre's delicate thread
untwisting, re-twisting,
spiralling down through generations;
you are the code of our being:
come, coil in our soul-centre,
transcribe yourself in the nucleus of our will.

O Seahorse
curled into an ocean's interrogative,
concealed in sinuous weed,
paternal pouch proud
with vibrant young;
you are the all-providing father who mothers:
come, entrust us to the ocean swell,
we who give birth to our own questionings.

O CD-ROM
information's halo,
where image, sound and word
await their resurrection
at the touch of a laser;
you are the unknown made known:
come, transcending image, sound, word,
inform our waiting clay.

ax

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From Echoes of Eckhart

aSHappy Birthday!
Says God
Hope you like the
Gift.

Unwrapping it
Meister Eckhart finds
Eternity
In the present.Happy Birthday!
Says God
Hope you like the
Gift.

Unwrapping it
Meister Eckhart finds
Eternity
In the present.

cMeister Eckhart sits
Contemplating
God.

A beggar approaches
Contemplating
Soup.

Meister Eckhart stops
Contemplating
God.

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From In the Stillness
The Web of God

No-one can separate himself from anyone else - Julian of Norwich

The Father's love creates for us
a unity, a web connecting
each with each,

that shimmers in the Spirit's breath,
and sparkles in the glory
of the Son

Wherever may the Lord so choose
to touch the web, he touches
each of us.

Thus does the mighty reparation
Christ achieved vibrate through
everything.

Thereby each soul receives and shares
the certain hope of union
with God.

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From Leaping & Staggering
The Chemistry Lesson

Our benches were maps of unknown worlds:
sprawling continents of chromic stains,
oceans shaped by acid splashes.
Swan-necked taps arose as gods,
cabbalistic glassware crammed the cupboards.

The retort was always my favourite piece:
clamped to its stand, a Bunsen flame licking
its bulbous buttock, a lethal concoction
seething within, an oily distillate
trickling down its Pinocchio nose.

Experiments designed to demonstrate
the basic laws would often prove
the opposite: mass was not conserved,
valences were rarely simple integers,
composition never constant.

Our written work was full of faked results,
Q.E.D.'s unjustified by data,
diagrams of over-perfect apparatus
equations copied out of books:
the tidy world of what-should-be.

In later life, I tried to falsify
a love-affair, make it fit
the theory of eternal happiness. She left,
and thus confirmed the old dichotomy
between a theory and a fact.


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A Brief Poetry of Time
Poems about a chainsaw, a misprint, pigs eating a hat, the Greenwich meridian, copulating frogs and wine feature in this collection, which concludes with a sequence of 14 sonnets (a sonnet of sonnets) exploring different aspects of time: subjective, objective, illusory, evolutionary…)

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Sonnet VII
In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love
(Alfred, Lord Tennyson)

But what of other seasons in the year?
And what of other stages in our life?
In autumn does desire disappear?
Cannot an old man show he loves his wife?
Perhaps the young in spring are always at it,
Zealously enjoying all they can,
The rest of us, however, are not static,
Despite a… well… diminishing attention span.

So let the young swing from the chandeliers!
Let them have it off three times a day!
Let them boast about it to their peers!
Let them think they’ve found a brand new way!
And when their spring is over, as is ours,
They’ll find in other seasons, other flowers.


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