Ed Skoog: An Introduction 

By Colin Uriah Johnson

Ed Skoog; Illustration by Sam Alden

Ed Skoog; Illustration by Sam Alden

 

Last month, Boise was blessed with a Ghost and Projector's performance at Ming Studios by Seattle Poet Ed Skoog. Reading alongside Mr. Skoog, as the local feature, was Death Rattle's own Diana Forgione. A remarkably memorable and verbose introduction was delivered by Ghost and Projector's own, Collin Uriah Johnson, to kick off the evening. That introduction, is featured here.               

Claiming to have the insight or critical fortitude to address a poet’s thematic concerns
according to one’s individual perception
of said poet’s poetry is A Bad IdeaTM ––

which I am full of !
as Ed, & anyone else who
has politely suffered my presence
during a class or social gathering can confirm ––

But Ed’s poems are bound in my mind
by their thematic tissue
& it’s impossible for me to talk about him,
let alone his writing
without remarking on the lavish, organic patterns of image & sound which unfold
in ways that never fail to surprise me ––

The same way a grapevine
clustered on a small trellis
clings to itself in astonishing ways ––

With complexity
evident from afar, but appreciated more
when observed at close proximity, its elegance heightened
by taking a moment to examine
the detail of each tendril
for how intuitive it is ––

That said, allow me to return to this
idea in a moment, excusing myself
before I get too carried away –– Ed Skoog was born in Topeka,

KANSAS — which,
for those of you who might not know, is a city

in a state
that has been the birthplace of
an overwhelming number of poets ––

Some of whom are Ed’s contemporaries –– Ben Lerner Anne Boyer

As well as

Langston Hughes
& Gwendolyn Brooks —

Opening with
a fairly straightforward description

of this landmark —

Where the roof of the dead
Mall directs sunset to irradiate
Her name
— the clarity of the image becomes woven

with an increasingly subtle & intricate play of words that both pays a beautiful homage to the poet —
Ms. Brooks —
while honoring the wit & grace of the poet writing ––

& CA Conrad
amongst many others ––

Ed’s most recent book,
Run the Red Lights, leads with a proem titled after the park in Topeka
bearing the latter poet’s name —

Wit is important to mention, because Ed’s poems have an effortless humor to them, which often lends a bit of levity, depending on the subject, but also disarms those readers who assume
the poem will go as
expected ––

If I might now return to that previous point I was making earlier regarding His Thematic ConcernsTM ––

Please humor me as I offer two additional, but nonetheless relevant,

points for context & clarity —

1.

By humor and wit I neither mean the poems are funny

like ‘ha-ha funny’
nor do they bear a structural resemblance to a well-crafted joke ––

Even if that comparison is flattering, I feel it’s slightly off-mark not quite capturing the sparkling lyric qualities
at work in Ed’s longform pieces, which are associative
insofar as they vibe & are vibrant

as a memorable conversation
characterized by the liveliness of its music ––

2.

Good conversations don’t have spoilers so when I say unexpected
I don’t mean ostentatious voltas
or ridiculously transparent

grabs at transcendence — Rather

Just beneath the veneer of poetic craft

resides a kind of panic few poets –– have articulated as directly
& humanely as Ed

at least those whom I’ve read ––

Whose first book

Mr. Skylight

takes its name
from the code word
used aboard ships by crew members to alert one another
of an emergency
they don’t want passengers
to know about

& quiet emergencies course throughout the whole of Ed’s work

right down to the grain

of punctuation
the language so precise
that when the mood shifts
& the lights go red
I feel as though the poem is an alarm as sounded, bringing to my attention the banal dread of time’s passage outside of what’s right before me

& the immense spectrum of human feeling
alive inside our knowledge of death
that creeps slowly hanging behind our eyes

the base of the neck
or comes suddenly under the solarplexus

with bewildering ferocity

Which would be unkind if the poems were not offered as Ed offers them —

As he offers himself —

generously
& with empathy
like a hand urging you up the steps
out of a dark basement

Perhaps a bad a way to introduce a poet but it is, nonetheless, this intro
which gives me the great honor
of bringing to the stage –– Mr. Ed Skoog

 

Ed Skoog's new book, Run the Red Lights, is available here