Poetry. "'What do I see' when I look into the eyes of another? What kind of exchange takes place when that look is returned? The poems in Elizabeth Arnold's devastating SKELETON COAST investigate the ways we are formed by such encounters—especially, at the core of the collection, by encounters with evil in the face of a person one loves, or has loved, or has wanted to love. These poems alternate between spare, psychological explorations and more expansive descriptions of difficult terrain: the Sahara, Egyptian ruins, and the dry riverbeds of the Skeleton Coast in the title sequence. The goal is to read what is truly there, as if we are all wrecks and deserts, to understand our dislocation from the forces that have made us and the sources that might feed us. What is buried is both violence and clarity, 'like a fault deep in the ground / with its / inexact though statistically measurable need / to relieve stress over time.' The vistas and profundities are Jamesian here, the poems scrupulous in their exploration of ethical weights and balances. Each poem is like a delicately fused mechanism, twisting around both still and moving parts, which the reader tracks silently on the way to inevitable, impeccable detonations."—Jennifer Clarvoe
Elizabeth Arnold is the author of six books of poems, including CIVILIZATION (2006), EFFACEMENT (2010), LIFE (2014), SKELETON COAST (2017), and WAVE HOUSE (2023). The recipient of a Whiting Award and an Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship, Arnold teaches poetry at the University of Maryland.