by Jake Skeets
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.
Named a "Best Poetry Book of 2019" by Electric Literature, Entropy Mag, and Auburn Avenue
Named a "Favorite Book of 2019" by Lit Hub
Named a "Best Queer Book of 2019" by BuzzFeed and Book Marks
"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, author of There There
"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
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.