By Selma Sergent
Skip Fox has written several books and chapbooks of poetry and mixed-genre work as well as a lengthy bibliography. He was an indexer for the MLA International Bibliography and the Book Review Editor of Bulletin of Bibliography. He has taught at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette at both the undergraduate and graduate levels for over thirty years. He currently lives in Louisiana.
Sheer Indefinite is a selected collection of his poetry from 1991 to 2011. These poems range widely over time and place. Fox writes of angels, emotion, nature, how the singular human experience weaves and winds out and into the greater whole. There is a sense of the mythic being matched with the empirical; a vastness, a sense of boundlessness, swirling and reaching like words tied to an arrow and shot out into the sky.
‘Angels’ begins with a Vatican Council meeting outlining better use of guardian angels. It sets the scene for the ebb and flow of Skip Fox’s immeasurable spirit.
“The boy who threw himself from a cliff was propped against a large rock by an angel who tied a bandanna about his leg. She told him that she was a little boy, too, but he knew that she was an angel. She kissed him and petted him and with her small hand in his told him stories which he forgot, but he knew how good they were because the pain was gone…”
Have you ever been to a concert where Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 9 is being played and you’ve reached the 3rd movement and are feeling roused by the angry passion of the Presto; only to find as the violinist takes a breath to recover from the exuberance of the previous movements that you are applauding at the wrong moment, before the piece is even over? Although you are sheepishly huddled in your seat, you are secretly thrilled there is more to come.
This happens with Skip Fox’s poetry – tidbits which continue the line of form and thought, extras adding an unexpected lustre.
“The mind can become an angel of perfect sorrow…”
This image, capable of transforming any mind or heart, appears at the end of ‘Angels’ – it is more than a footnote or an afterthought; it is perhaps a whisper from the divine.
‘Year Zero’, is a moment of inception, a spring beginning to bubble. Keen, intensive images abound -
“Outside the first sounds still bounce
off trees in the dawn. Each moment murders the last”
Once again, there is that aside, a complete poem in itself –
“terror at the edge of each leaf….”
Fox speaks of something more, angels, fairy voices, evident in ‘The Story Starts Anywhere, Useless’ –
“As if someone who has just died begins telling a story to someone who’s been here
all the time. I think that he was thinking that I thought. . .
And the air goes white with understanding. Fairy voices.”
The weighty, welcome footnote isn’t far behind –
“Cred’ io ch’ei credette ch’io credesse. ….”
A phrase plucked from Dante’s Inferno, the 13th Canto, fitting in snugly. There is a sense of improvisation to Dante’s metre; his poems keep developing, extending their voice and voices just as Skip Fox’s do. Contributing to the vastness; rendering the world of Fox’s poems ornate, inexhaustible.
Loosely translated the footnote reads -
“It seems my master thought that I believed”,
an invitation for the reader to believe, not in the toil of Dante’s afterlife, but in the far-reaching, incandescent movement and form of Fox’s poetry.
The movement rises, wends, airborne but not hasty, unfolding as it will.
There in ‘Sic Transit’ –
“Darkness folds back from darkness, more
darkness, skin over
skull, un- folding, mind’s evaginations”
Continuing in ‘Approaching Autumn’ –
“dead leaves, some the color of cement if cement were rust, scrape my knees on their way to the grave, buried in gravity, the maple still full and maple leaves soft as spring, drops begin their pattern on the pond,”
With the glorious ‘Canticle Of Recovery’ underscoring it all –
“Beneath leaves floating on water, in water, over stones round as heaven is
round, and hell square, to set against it, orb as platform of stars, on earth,
here, there are no straight lines in nature…”
There are no straight lines in Fox’s poetry. There are spiderwebs. There are tapestries. Detailed, elaborate, a nexus of highways and byways carrying his poetry from “cement kangaroos on the playground” (‘Where they live and what for’) to “a universe without stars” (‘in esse.’) Fox is a poet of real power and complexity; a richly textured voice; polished, significant, unflinching.
Sheer Indefinite is published By Uno Press at the University of New Orleans.
You can buy Sheer Indefinite from Amazon.
I am a former teacher and musician. I have worked as an editor and writer for several small publishers in Sydney, Australia. I have had some short stories published, as well as two plays. I also mess about with fiction on my blog. Once I was a hairsbreadth away from a publishing deal with a major publishing house. I have too many full length novels in my filing cabinet waiting to be submitted. I understand the vagaries of the writing life yet remain passionate about writers and writing. The world with all its flaws continues to inspire me.