AN ARRANGEMENT OF SKIN
By Anna Journey
Counterpoint, March 21, 2017
Charles Simic once said that the secret wish of all poetry is to stop time. In these essays, Anna Journey succeeds in doing just that. Though the book swerves vertiginously among topics—a Mississippi delta mother’s penchant for telling horrific tales at the dinner table, a linguaphile father’s joke at a Bolivian airport that operates as an unintentional death threat, a stranger’s kindness that takes the form of a thoughtful gift stowed within an armoire’s hidden chamber—each essay demonstrates Journey’s singular ability to hold a moment or action or thought in suspension as she turns it over in the light, revealing from each angle the almost imperceptible connections that bind together and make meaning of a life.
“‘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
“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 capably pushing ahead all the while with grace, curiosity, and persistence.” —Maggie Nelson
"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
About the Author
Anna Journey is the author of If Birds Gather Your Hair For Nesting (University of Georgia Press, 2009), Vulgar Remedies (LSU Press, 2013), and the forthcoming The Atheist Wore Goat Silk (LSU Press). Her poetry has appeared in American Poetry Review, The Best American Poetry, Blackbird, FIELD, The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, and Tin House, and her essays have been featured in AGNI, The Antioch Review, Catapult, Prairie Schooner, The Southern Review, and Utne Reader. She lives in Venice, California with her husband, poet David St. John, and teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Southern California.