Brute: Poems

Image of Brute: Poems
Release Date: 
April 1, 2019
Graywolf Press
Reviewed by: 

“Skaja knows exactly how to engage nature, readers, and life.”

Poets endure transformative experiences in life that compel them to write. They reach for creative outlets to express and conquer powerful emotions. Emily Skaja reaches for nature in Brute to overcome the loss of an abusive lover, to overcome grief.

Skaja immerses herself in multisensory landscapes, with stark images, to release emotional strife. She knows herself. She knows nature. And she knows how to personify and transform natural images into metaphors for human sentiment.

Here are some lines from “I have Read the Whole Moon”: “In March I drop an egg hoping a bird will fly out disbelieving / science. All the manuals tell me this is a logical contract. / You commit yourself to a shell & you end up flying. Fine. / Stone after stone, I’m defacing the river of being in love with you.” The personified metaphor is clear: triumph over nature to ease human pain.

Notice how deliberately simple the images are. Skaja is a master at this. We take pedestrian objects for granted; but for Skaja, mundane landscapes mean so much more. She uses natural, engaging landscapes to conquer her painful “brute.”       

“Dear Emily” is another very strong poem which demands multiple reads. Here are the opening four stanzas: “Easy to disown the girl you were / at 23: fluffed dove-gray // & bridal, eyes up, prim bird claws / pink on the brute arm // of your first wreck, / your original lesson // in leaving a fire / to burn itself to ash.” Every compelling read further intensifies and defines the “original lesson” learned. The images of adolescent transformation into adulthood are clear and powerful.

Skaja knows exactly how to engage nature, readers, and life. Her diverse poetics prove her broad range of skills. She takes risks. Her poems range from narrative to free verse, several of which use free association to encapsulate metaphors. All poems in Brute flow with precision and ease.