Douglas Reid Skinner South African poet

Work > Blue Rivers

Blue Rivers (2011)

These are not poems that immediately reveal their mysteries, but for the reader who likes to look deeper, there are delightful discoveries, such as the personification on page 23 (‘chairs coughed’), or the poem ‘Sentimental Education’, a play on Flaubert’s novel from 1869 and the famous novel Das Perfum by Patrick Süskind…. The reader who brings both Flaubert and Süskind to this text is rewarded with a disturbing poem that lingers long in the mind after reading… For the follower of Derrida’s absence/presence and the strange archives of words, there is much to be discovered.

Joan Hambidge

Douglas Reid Skinner is a poet’s poet, and the final piece in this challenging collection demonstrates how seriously, how, finally, without playful irony, he takes his craft. The poem, ‘Life of the Mind’, is guided by an epigraph from Jorge Luis Borges. It contains the archetype, which names this anthology: ‘a Common Blue waltzing slowly / through the haze of summer’s gloaming’. This is the ‘singular thing that [keeps] him going’ as he moves… [towards] his twilight years.

John Eppel

…even to the point of trying to express in verse the voice of a ‘muse’ who is an actual other with ‘authority’ over the writer. That led to some rather amusing results.

Douglas Reid Skinner

  • Intermezzo

  • — i.m. Don Maclennan 1929–2009
  • In the middle of contemplating the strangeness of what
  • you might call ‘being conscious of self and world’,
  • I thought to ask what your ideas on the matter were,
  • imagining I’d find you asleep in the garden, your face
  • shaded by a battered old hat perched at
  • an odd angle, a book of Seferis half-open in your lap.
  • The photograph I have of you sitting in a striped deckchair
  • reminds me of just such a post-prandial afternoon
  • one spring when food and wine had all but overtaken speech
  • and intermittent conversation catalogued the losses
  • that accumulate: lovers; certainty; the strengths
  • we need to solve the singular puzzles of a sheer rock face.
  • Bashō got it right. Examined up close, our anchors of love,
  • faith and joy, are fleeting, unfixed, more air
  • than anything else. Nothing’s ever the same as it was
  • a moment ago, before you read the lines you wrote.
  • Everything requires remaking and renewal.
  • That the centre doesn’t hold doesn’t matter—it never did.