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Kafka's Shadow
by Judith Skillman
78 pages 46 poems
ISBN: 978-0-9975051-4-6
Publication date: February 1, 2017
Price: $16.95
Publisher: Deerbrook Editions
To Order


Kafka's Shadow takes the reader through Franz Kafka's life (1883‐1924) from child hood through adulthood, as he came of age under his authoritarian father, Hermann, who desired that Franz become entrepreneurial and insensitive‐in short,a replica of himself. Themes include Kafka's desire to escape from the "milieu," and to experience life apart from a suffocating domesticity. These poems explore Kafka's provocative style and relentless drive to write, as well as his illness, fragility and, ultimately, his inability to marry for fear of losing his raison d'etre‐which was, of course, writing.

I have been drawn to Judith Skillman's work for three decades, ever since her first book, Worship of the Visible Spectrum. In her latest volume, she inhabits the mind of Franz Kafka, as well as some of those who loomed large in his life: family members, would-be sweethearts, his editors. We thus see the world in the outré, off-kilter way that Kafka seems to have‐as if the lenses of his eyes worked differently than most people's, letting in a light that few can focus. In Kafka's Shadows he sees edges that,others don't, edges that cut him off from taking part in "normal" life‐pleasing his father, marrying, performing work that others consider productive. Skillman's use of internal rhyme in many of these poems exemplifies how Kafka's world, while being initially recognizable as our own, resonates on another frequency, bringing music sharp and unfamiliar to our ears. This book gives us a deeper knowledge of Kafka as a person and artist, of his times and difficulties in finding his place. Though he loved peonies, we see the thistles that grew around him.
‐Michael Spence, Umbilical, winner of The New Criterion Poetry Prize


Reading Skillman's poems, I felt more acutely my own desire to be fully
alive, the pressing realities of beauty and loss.
‐John Amen, Editor of The Pedestal Magazine

Skillman bends and breaks standard syntax and meaning as she employs
impressive vocabulary, narrative, and imagery for her own purposes, mining
the hidden regions of dreams, myth, culture, and memory. She mixes a sliver
of pain, a kernel of tenderness, a twist of satire, perversity, and
bitterness, creating from it all a potent sauce of raw truth.
‐Ann Wehrman, Reviewer, The Pedestal Magazine

. . . readers will encounter the intelligence and honesty of the real
‐Brendan Galvin

. . . Skillman's ability to accommodate multiple meanings in even the
most seemingly straightforward of sentences is like being pushed by a
doppelganger who insists we jump beyond obvious interpretations.
‐Christianne Balk, The Holding Hours, UW Poetry Series


Judith Skillman, MA English, is the author of sixteen collections of poems
and a how to, Broken Lines‐The Art & Craft of Poetry (Lummox Press), the
recipient of an award from the Academy of American Poets for her book Storm
(Blue Begonia Press). Her work has appeared in FIELD, Shenandoah, Prairie
, Zyzzyva, The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American
, and elsewhere. She has been a Writer in Residence at the Centrum
Foundation in Port Townsend, Washington, and The Hedgebrook Foundation. Her
collaborative translations have appeared in Northwest Review, Kalyna Review,
and Ezra. Skilllman currently teaches at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle.


The Cauliflower
by Judith Skillman

He'd tried before, gutting
the thick stem
from the white meat
with his mother's butcher knife,
carving away at leaves
the same color
as the moon that shone
when he walked alone
at night, up those avenues
mapped with her, his beloved,
the one with whom he'd spend
his life. Children? They would come
after wedlock, when,
to avenge his father,
he could become a father.

Steam fogged his glasses
inside the garret-sized kitchen,
where he holed up
with his prize,
this dish to please her,
if her were every woman
in his life‐the sisters,
especially them.

Cheese clung
to his fingers, half-melted
as the tears a boy
couldn't cry came into his eyes,
whet the skin of cheekbone,
dried there. This time
the cruciferous would give way
beneath teeth used to having
or not having‐as if
the two states,
to want or not to want‐
could live apart
from one another.


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