cover image Skeleton Coast

Skeleton Coast

Elizabeth Arnold. Flood, $15.95 trade paper (120p) ISBN 978-0-9903407-9-9

Arnold (Life) excavates landscapes of physical and emotional desolation with supreme vigilance in this accomplished collection. She explores the roots of these settings and maps their evolution: the insidious draw that leads one into a place of desolation, the time-sensitive moment of redemption, and the strength that comes from unremitting self-honesty. In the title poem, Arnold visits the desiccated Skeleton Coast of Namibia, where animals must dig for water and rivers flow once every three decades. In this place, the safest haven is a flood plain where “the few animals that can survive//life in a desert// gather to graze and become prey.” In her most humorous poem, she captures the alluring nature of madness: “It looked all right,/ ordered even.// I went with it awhile. Then/ ‘awhile’ got/ split up// hyphens everywhere.” In another inspired piece, Arnold illustrates the internal dissonance developed by victims of emotional abuse: “back to back my two halves shun each other/ unaware of the split// or of the deeper calm interior,// silent,/ waiting for me to stop// long enough to hear that, hope.” She showcases her distinctive sense of craft with narratives that are lithe, meticulous, and wholly unlabored, fashioning a body of work that will suit novice and seasoned readers alike. Arnold’s collection is simultaneously powerful and delicate, radiating elegance and resilience. (Jan.)