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An Arrangement of Skin (Counterpoint Press)
Anna Journey’s lyrical and layered arrangement of essays dazzles us with her reflections on our shifting selves—the many “skins” we inhabit in a life. An Arrangement of Skin is by turns beguiling, dark, carnal, and deeply personal. Journey revels in the flexibility and hy- bridity of the essay form, enriching her idiosyncratic anecdotes with literary and cultural meditations and electrifying the work with a poet’s keen ear and canny eye.
These essays swerve artfully among topics—a recollection of a personal rupture and ensuing call to a suicide hotline opens into a consideration of taxidermy and lyric time; a mother’s penchant for telling macabre stories at the dinner table connects to campfire songs and the cultural importance of American roots music; and a tattoo artist named after a pirate-themed rum reminds us how we inscribe our skins and spirits through the intimate gestures of ink. This is a first collection from an essayist of the highest order.
Praise for An Arrangement of Skin
“With an air that’s equal parts Alfred Hitchcock and John Waters, poet Journey floats across the macabre, the literary, and the damaged…[She] has the poet’s eye for detail and knack for taut sentences, strong verbs, and arresting images…this is a fine volume and well worth reading.” —Publishers Weekly
“Glorious prose, beautiful images and metaphors composed by a fine poet.” —Kirkus
“While reading Anna Journey’s An Arrangement of Skin, I kept feeling as though I was riding on a boat, being toured through some beautiful places and some dark places, the person at the oars capable of pushing ahead all the while with grace, curiosity, and persistence.” —Maggie Nelson, author of Jane and The Red Parts
“An Arrangement of Skin embodies what thrills me most in the essay form—an artist trying, over and over, to find the different paths into the subterranean realms of her subconscious. An early and unlikely image—taxidermy—contains the essence of the various tensions that connect these thoughts. For Journey, taxidermy ‘evokes that ineffable spark of life: call it a soul, a personality, a sentience’. An Arrangement of Skin is by turns transformative and vital, and with it Journey takes her place alongside Biss, Jamison, and D’Ambrosio.” – Nick Flynn, author Another Bullshit Night in Suck City
“‘Done with the compass, done with the chart!’ cried Emily Dickinson, tossing aside familiar ways of navigating the body’s wild seas. Anna Journey’s adventurous book traces what it is to be flesh in a surprising suite of essays that turns—like Ovid’s poems, or Plath’s—around images of dismemberment and metamorphosis. She might be our first Southern Gothic essayist, and she invigorates the form with both a poet’s lyricism and the distinctive signature of her character: a vulnerable heart wedded to an acute, comic, unsparing eye.” —Mark Doty
Anna Journey is the author of the poetry collections The Atheist Wore Goat Silk, Vulgar Remedies, and If Birds Gather Your Hair for Nesting, the latter of which was selected by Thomas Lux for the National Poetry Series. She’s received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Academy of American Poets, Yaddo, and elsewhere. She’s an assistant professor of English at the University of Southern California.
Photo by Stephanie Diani
David L. Ulin is the author, most recently, of the novel Ear to the Ground. A 2015 Guggenheim Fellow, his other books include Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles, shortlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay, The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time, and the Library of America's Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology, which won a California Book Award. He is the former book editor, and book critic, of the Los Angeles Times.
Photo by Noal Ulin