The Truth about Our American Births
by Judith Skillman
The Truth about Our American Births explores experiences of exile and displacement common to third-generation German Jews. As a child, author Judith Skillman was shielded from the past her parents shared with their fellow immigrants to Canada; the Holocaust was rarely mentioned. While these poems explore themes of exile, emigration, nostalgia, and loss, they also examine the role of nature as an organic force for healing.
POETRY / General
ISBN: 978-1-951651-26-8 (print; softcover; perfect bound)
Released April 2020
Judith Skillman is author of sixteen collections of poetry, including Kafka’s Shadow, House of Burnt Offerings, and The Phoenix: New & Selected Poems. She is the recipient of an Eric Mathieu King Fund Award from the Academy of American Poets for her book Storm (Blue Begonia Press). Her poems have appeared in Poetry, The Iowa Review, LitMag, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, Zyzzyva, We Refugees, and numerous other journals and anthologies.
Ms. Skillman has been a Writer in Residence at the Centrum Foundation in Port Townsend, Washington. Her passion for collaborative translation can be seen in Hawaii Review’s poems of Macedonian poet Jovica Eternijan, and in the chapbook Anne-Marie Derése in Translation & The Green Parrot (Ahadada Books). Her work has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, the UK Kit Award, Best of the Web, and is included in Best Indie Verse of New England.
“Can you be an immigrant without being an emigrant? Or can you emigrate without immigrating? What is a refuge for a refugee? Judith Skillman’s The Truth about Our American Births asks bold questions and makes vital distinctions about the stories of her German Jewish heritage—from first to second to ensuing generations. Her poems are like the panorama beyond the window as a train charges down its track, playing with time and memory, about what is told or assumed. Some things are left behind like the persona in the poem, ‘Madrigal,‘ who states: ‘I, who forgive cannot forget.’ Here is the grandmother with one breast, the three ghosts—Leah, Israel, and Jake. And the answer to the question: Where did her mother’s just plucked chicken go to be declared kosher? Skillman’s wordplay and imagery are puzzle pieces that join and fit into a multifaceted landscape. The complex layers in her poems resound with surprising leaps and answers.”
“From one of the most important associative poets of our time, here’s a surprising departure from themes previously treated. With striking figurative language, deft concision, and deep-imagery, the speaker in this poet’s new collection grapples with the implications of estrangement from the culture, religion, and tribe of her Jewish parents. Is identity inherited? Is identity cultivated? Is the need for belonging universal? Skillman navigates the circuitous terrain of political, familial, and personal history with admirable quietude and tenderness.”
“Judith Skillman’s ability to wring emotional value from mundane encounters in the concentration of an image, the brush stroke of a narrative, teaches me poetry’s ever widening sweep and mystical scope, echoing dogma by simultaneously escaping it into the eternal realm of wild beauty.”
“Few poets seize the natural world in the tender, particular ways that poet Judith Skillman does. For a poet who sees this world as does Skillman, nature’s beauty and cruelty is ours as well.”
Carol Smallwood, “Interview with Judith Skillman,” Midwest Book Review, June 2020
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