River Skin

Catalog, Collection / Thursday, May 12th, 2022

Enter River Skin, a collection that traverses a landscape of lilacs, switchblades, and creeks. These poems squeeze grief through a cider press and heap addiction high on a wood pile. Interrogating the domestic with a candor that evokes Sharon Olds, Smith’s debut returns us to the forest, where she unearths a tenderness that aches, splinters, and renews.

These are poems of invocation (Come darkness come / it’s time to break this tempest), poems about nothing less than the way memories can swirl like a tilt-a-whirl, making what was blur and overlap. In these memories, the natural world keeps getting interrupted by switchblades of violence, yet the invocations (dear silence come), center us in the possibility of beauty.

Nick Flynn, author of I Will Destroy You

If one of the aims of poetry is to condense our vast, contradictory, and beauti- ful world into the briefest of songs, River Skin stands as a testament to its possibility. In these vibrant poems of landscape, family, and identity, Smith exhibits a true talent for imbuing natural, experiential detail with authenticity, layered meanings, and lyricism. But River Skin is so much more than that; it’s also brimming with powerful meditations grounded in the familiar that eventually open us up to something far greater. It takes risks by exploring sincere, often harsh realities through rich, accessible language. These poems are intellectually stimulating and emotionally engaging, written by someone with clear eyes and an open, curious heart that shies neither from the darkness nor the light that, together, define the human condition.

John Sibley Williams, author of As One Fire Consumes Another

A train whistle, a smear of black ice, a mouthful of fishhooks—out of these nicked, glittering elements, Darcy Smith’s River Skin transforms loss into “a torn place on [her] sleeve,” a dwelling place in which, despite each vanishing, we remain. Smith is a poet of the cast and the lure, and although her poems singe the fingers, we are glad to be caught.

Joshua Davis, co-author (with Allison Blevins) of Chorus for the Kill

River Skin, Darcy Smith’s first collection of poetry, roils through a downriver landscape of maple-lined roads, rust-covered tractors, and rose-wallpapered homes, its bucolic beauty casting the near-constant undercurrent of domestic trauma into high relief. Finely-honed and whetted, these are lines as sharp and clean as fishbones, pliantly molded into shapes both formal and inventive. Nouns masquerade as verbs, verbs as adjectives, scenes tantalize with fresh and surprising imagery, sonics tease, reverberate, and haunt. Moreover, these poems emanate tremendous empathy—a tender heart broken by a long procession of hard knocks. But like her river, Smith’s skin is elastic, finding solace in the rustle of maples and oaks, the scent of lilacs, the wonder of lichens, the chatter of crickets, even the rust on the family tractor becomes salve for wounds. Read this book and marvel at how raw, angry fissures miraculously mend to become supple and glossy, time and again, as Smith stops to observe, harken, and honor them.

Lissa Kiernan, author of The Whispering Wall, Glass Needles & Goose Quills, and Two Faint Lines in the Violet

Darcy Smith’s River Skin examines, in exquisite language and vivid imagery, the many roles a woman may play in her life: as daughter, as sister, as wife, as mother. With each of these roles comes the challenging demands of love and the wounds we inevitably inflict on each other. “It only takes one thaw to end everything,” Smith writes, and we feel the truth of this in her daring syntax and sharp eye. Still, despite the grief of addiction, of dying parents, of a stillborn birth, these poems are “sunless prayer[s]” and “greening hymns.” They speak to the stony comfort of our own resilience, the way we can find a home amid ruins.

Amie Whittemore, author of Glass Harvest

Darcy Smith

Darcy Smith’s debut collection River Skin was a semifinalist for the 2020 Hillary Gravendyk Prize. Recent poems have appeared in numerous publications including Grub Street, Two Thirds North, River Heron Review, and Anti-Heroin Chic. Smith is a Certified Sign Language Interpreter, Buddhist, kickboxer, wife, and mother. She lives with her husband and their cat, Miley, in New York’s Hudson Valley. darcysmith.org