Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers: Poems

By Jake Skeets

Available

Description

Selected by Kathy Fagan as a winner of the 2018 National Poetry Series, Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers is a debut collection of poems by a dazzling geologist of queer eros.

Drunktown, New Mexico, is a place where men "only touch when they fuck in a backseat." Its landscape is scarred by violence: done to it, done on it, done for it. Under the cover of deepest night, sleeping men are run over by trucks. Navajo bodies are deserted in fields. Resources are extracted. Lines are crossed. Men communicate through beatings, and football, and sex. In this place, "the closest men become is when they are covered in blood / or nothing at all."

But if Jake Skeets's collection is an unflinching portrait of the actual west, it is also a fierce reclamation of a living place--full of beauty as well as brutality, whose shadows are equally capable of protecting encounters between boys learning to become, and to love, men. Its landscapes are ravaged, but they are also startlingly lush with cacti, yarrow, larkspur, sagebrush. And even their scars are made newly tender when mapped onto the lover's body: A spine becomes a railroad. "Veins burst oil, elk black." And "becoming a man / means knowing how to become charcoal." Rooted in Navajo history and thought, these poems show what has been brewing in an often forgotten part of the American literary landscape, an important language, beautiful and bone dense.

Sculptural, ambitious, and defiantly vulnerable, the poems of Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers are coal that remains coal, despite the forces that conspire for diamond, for electricity.

Product Details

Price: $16.00  $14.72
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Published Date: September 10, 2019
Pages: 96
Dimensions: 5.7 X 0.4 X 8.9 inches | 0.4 pounds
ISBN: 9781571315205
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

Jake Skeets is Black Streak Wood, born for Water's Edge. He is Diné from Vanderwagen, New Mexico. He is the author of Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers, a National Poetry Series-winning collection of poems. He holds an MFA in poetry from the Institute of American Indian Arts. Skeets is a winner of the 2018 Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Contest and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Skeets edits an online publication called Cloudthroat and organizes a poetry salon and reading series called Pollentongue, based in the Southwest. He is a member of Saad Bee Hózhǫ́ A Diné Writers' Collective and currently teaches at Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona.

Reviews

"Revelatory . . . By turns elegiac and erotic, the collection is also lush with language whose music evokes the landscape. This is one of the most accomplished and emotionally engaging debuts I have read, one that shows a man 'unlearns how to hold a fist' by holding another man's hand." --New York Times Book Review

"Jake Skeets writes with such sparse yet full beauty, you sometimes don't know where the source of the power of these poems comes from. It is in the power of his language, in the craft, of course. It is in how the brutal experience of pain and loss can become a thing of beauty, which is where grace lives, which is where the best art comes from. There is so much bottle-dark beauty here. Skeets is a new, essential voice in poetry, in literature."--Tommy Orange

"The poems here are as visually gripping as they are stunning to read . . . Full of landscape imagery, queer love intimacy, violence, and flowers, this is an arresting collection from a poet worth watching." --BuzzFeed

"Illuminating and hauntingly incisive . . . [Skeets's collection] deserves to be seen as the debut of a brilliant and transcendent poet, whose work conveys a gorgeous sense of self and of storytelling ability--qualities of the best literature in any tradition." --New Republic

"One of my favorite new poetry books is Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers by Jake Skeets . . . His poems bring us an intimate portrait of Diné masculinity."--Rigoberto Gonzalez, Los Angeles Times

"Jake Skeets's Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers shows the radical possibilities of literature and characterization, when Indigenous people are in charge of our own representation." --Tommy Pico, Chicago Review of Books

"As good as any poetry debut I've ever read." --Tommy Orange, New York Times

"Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers crackles with the syntax of language and landscape, love and violence. It's a stunning collection, alive and pulsing." --Los Angeles Review of Books

"Jake Skeets's memorable first book . . . shows how, far more than in earlier decades, American poetry can give many of us what we need." --Harper's Magazine

"Incredibly beautiful . . . Skeets's simple lines are highly impactful as they explore the complexities of love, desire and drunkenness and dirt and death." --Electric Literature

"Skeets's poems capture furtive glances, queer lust, and the threads that link these various images. The book is not so much a reflection on queerness as an enactment of desire in iterative, emergent bursts." --Poetry Foundation

"With deftness and awe . . . Skeets has given us a book of poems that reverberate and summon the beauty of what has been overlooked or discarded." --High Country News

"Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers examines homosexuality and homosociality among Diné men in Drunktown, New Mexico, a southwestern desert town where desire and violence go hand in hand. The poems' spare verse and direct language offer no shield from the brutality and beauty of the landscape." --Literary Hub, Most Anticipated Books of 2019

"Scintillating . . . Skeets's darkly resonant debut book of poetry indulges readers in the dangerous eroticism experienced by its Diné speaker, for whom desire and violence intermingle at every turn." --Booklist (starred review)

"In the unforgiving mess of life, Skeets shows us beauty." --AZ Daily Sun

"Skeets's raw debut offers beautiful imagery and memorable emotional honesty . . . [this collection] subtly rebukes the hypermasculinity that breeds homophobia and violence and excoriates the centuries of oppression that have caused the scourge of alcohol abuse in Native American communities." --Publishers Weekly, Top 10 Poetry Pick for Fall 2019

"Jake Skeets's debut collection glitters like a fistful of mineral earth. In dizzying, de-centering bursts of verse and prose, at once spare and luminous, Skeets renders tangible the experience of a young, queer member of the Diné Nation in Gallup, New Mexico." --Samuel Partal, Community Bookstore

"In Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers, Ná'nízhoozhí, also known as Gallup, Drunktown, and Indian Eden, staggers through memory and violent desire with 'pipelines entrench[ed] behind [its] teeth.' Jake Skeets sings this reservation bordertown into being, where the 'Navajo word for eye hardens . . . into war.' This collection is inevitable and unrelenting, its tongue 'coils on the trigger.' The future of Navajo poetry reveals itself in these pages."--Sherwin Bitsui

"On its surface, Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers is an examination of toxic masculinity through the lens of a queer, indigenous Southwesterner, a book in which alcoholism, violence, and sex under cover of night are both ruefully and sensually described. But experiencing Jake Skeets's collection is more akin to listening to a musical score to, or watching the choreography of, one Diné man's vivid boyhood, the family and community of that boyhood, and the landscape holding them all. Indeed, like a lover, the land of these poems enters and ornaments Skeets's men, old and young, dead and alive. His images haunt, and his use of repetition, field, and fragment provide the book's structural genius. His is a major debut that feels to me timely and timeless--'boys only hold boys / like bottles'--and is my singular joy to introduce."--Kathy Fagan

"Jake Skeets takes us to 'The Indian Capital of the World, ' a landscape of erosion and erasure, where 'boys only hold boys / like bottles' and eros is a dangerous thing. In the brush and horseweed, ghosts and trains and abandoned trailers, a young Diné attempts to answer all the question marks of adolescence and early adulthood, desire and death commingling around him. These are poems born of unspokenness, testing the limits of language, love, and silence."--D. A. Powell

"Jake Skeets's metamorphic debut, Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers, replete with poems of depth, musicality, clarity, and associative throughlines, brings its readers towards real and credible meaning. These poems insist upon harbor, limbus, nettle: as in 'American Bar, ' when we are reminded that it is 'such a terrible beauty to find ourselves beneath things.' As in 'Drunktown, ' when we are given the rupture into experience: 'In between letters are boots crushing tumbleweeds, / a tractor tire backing over a man's skull.' As in 'Let There Be Coal, ' when we begin to perceive that 'no light comes, just dust cloud, / glitterblack.' Skeets's poems deserve every celebration and rumination; this, as is his work, is irrefutable." --Joan Naviyuk Kane

"Skeets's collection reclaims the voices, stories, and images of his family and people, especially American Indigenous men. These poems can be beautifully shocking or shockingly beautiful, as the speakers wrestle with queerness, intimacy, the West, and Navajo history." --Annie Metcalf, Magers & Quinn Booksellers

"Reading this collection felt like sitting in a quiet, cloudy, windy field--a stilling sensation rippling through me as the world around goes on. What Skeets doesn't say in his poems is just as powerful as what he does say--I can feel the heaviness dripping off of them and visualize how they connect in this somewhat linear storytelling aspect you don't get too often with poetry collections. Eyes Bottle Dark is sensual, sorrowful, and essential. Fans of Tommy Pico are sure to enjoy." --Andrew King, University Book Store

"People are a landscape, too. We embody the places we're from. In his debut collection Skeets, a queer Diné writer, lays down the geography of a Drunktown, New Mexico. This geography charts the body of the West, full of cactus, sagebrush, even coal. And full of people also, specifically queer men. Skeets's poems draw a desire that wear its specific landscape. Want is never placeless. The men in the collection find each other among systematic and personal violence. Yet this is a loving and tender book, showing people made in the context of where they are, as much as our future take shape of where we're heading." --Connor Oswald, Changing Hands

"An amazing debut collection from Diné poet Jake Skeets that explores his experience and that of Native peoples with the American Southwest. Skeets's ability to use form and innovate with structure amplify his innate talent for constructing language that is simultaneously lush and razor sharp. Grappling with alcoholism, queer sexuality, and toxic masculinity, his poems confront and challenge; but through its swirl of violence and beauty, Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers is always vividly gorgeous." --Caleb Masters, Bookmarks