Through the Second Skin

By Derek Sheffield. Orchises Press, 2013. 

Through the Second Skin, which was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award, the Walt Whitman Award, and the Emily Dickinson First Book Award, offers us lyric poems set in the author’s native Northwest. Written over the course of a decade, Derek Sheffield’s first collection is the work of a mature artist assured in his craft and at home in a variety of forms. It is the poetry of the human, middle ground, of distances approached but not yet arrived at; of reflection—of “bears watching us watching them.” Informed without being literary or academic, at once experienced and digested, the poems in Through the Second Skin share their secrets in intimate, respectful equipoise.

Praise for the book:

“Poetry this keenly engaged is enough to make me think that, as the supreme fiction, poetry is an instrument that just might have the power to keep the world in balance. This is a book to be read and re-read in contemplation and admiration for the way it opens up the reflective space so many of us hunger for in a frenzied time.” — Alison Hawthorne Deming

“In carefully chosen moments rendered through sharp and precise images, Derek Sheffield reveals the vulnerability and strength of the soul. There it is on every page—in every flicker and stone of living light portrayed and defined throughout this book. Take note of its many names.” — Pattiann Rogers

“The rarest of finds in our current literary milieu, this is a collection that can amplify the reader’s experience with the natural world, a book whose poems don’t pale when read by firelight under a wide swath of stars above a chorus of loons on a lake, but rather, are so formally and observationally authentic as to join the surrounding symphony.” — Chris Dombrowski

“The strongest collection I’ve seen in years. I only rarely find a poem in the New Yorker or the Atlantic as good as many in this book.” — John Daniel