White Pine Press Poetry Prize

by Tim Skeen

Published by: White Pine Press

108 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in

  • Paperback
  • 9781935210627
  • Published: October 2014


"Risk is a poetic autobiography played out on a kaleidoscopic panorama of history. Skeen's poems document a working-class childhood in Kentucky and Ohio, the loss of a brother, a mother's face 'as hard and bright as Formica,' and they detail the unexpected gift of a comfortable middle age in California, 'where / even convertibles make sense.' Skeen moves through the world with equal parts wariness and gratitude."—Gary Young

"Risk holds the details of the past up to the light of the present with an eye that rescues American life mid-century. Most importantly, each poem risks the clarity necessary to discover the meaning of who we have become."—Christopher Buckley

My Brother's Trombone
for Ernie

The instrument didn't come naturally to him.
Nothing came naturally to him, not even death.
He drowned in "The Song of the Volga Boatman."
"Mastodon" rolled over and refused to come to life.
I had my own troubles with the cornet.
If he showed warnings of the difficulty ahead,
I didn't take notice. Thirteen years old, I lorded
it over his twelve. I kept my instrument behind
my mother's cedar chest for years until I swapped
it for a Brad Krieger painting which takes my mind
off that time. After he was shot, I wanted to sell
his trombone or give it away or bury it with his body.
What good would that have done when each time I see a paperclip
I recall the sound of his breath slipping through that trombone?

Tim Skeen, who won the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry in 2001 for his book Kentucky Swami, coordinates the MFA program in creative writing at California State University, Fresno.