Hewing close to the bone, the incendiary poems in The Listening Skin explore how an artist dares to dance and create through a pain-riddled body. Corporeal and spiritual, immediately personal and deeply historical, Redmond’s latest collection details how generational cycles of poverty, mental and physical illness, and systemic racism impact the self, the family, and the greater African-American collective. Examining the connection between adverse childhood experiences and adult chronic conditions, Redmond’s poems arise from her deepest listening, beyond the skin, rooted in the marrow. They speak to the hardship of enduring fibromyalgia and the ongoing challenges of multiple myeloma while rejoicing in survival and the grace of existence itself. Yes, The Listening Skin affirms life and demands the dignity its speaker deserves: “I am full of this past present heat / I carry. / I come to the shore, / but I vacate nothing.” This consummate work honors embodied knowledge, all that’s heard at the boundary between flesh and air, vacating nothing, determinedly and brilliantly whole.
“Make No Apologies for Yourself,” from The Listening Skin
Dear you, make no apologies for yourself
because you are covered in a listening skin
Because every ache you feel is not your own
Because of the bowl of sorrow your mother carries
Because of your father’s wildfire moods
Because of how many rivers they crossed
Because of the lynching tree
Because when you enter bookstores
volumes fall off shelves into your open palms
Because you ask questions of the universe
and it answers and opens before you like a page…
Its first language was scratched from the land. A powerful, generous, and wise collection. The Listening Skin is an archeological tool that excavated my history, my longing, and my joy. Now I know I can read the sky. These poems will forever walk with me into the next life and the next and the next… Lifegiving, Joyous, Essential!
In The Listening Skin, Glenis Redmond returns to the ancestors and the deep knowing that comes from being ever ready to receive the wisdom they give us. She plants us again in the South Carolinian soil and reaches across decades and continents back to the motherland for historical context, for truth, and for healing. She does not flinch from racism nor the complexities of what it means to carry trauma inside the Black body. These poems are beautifully rendered but don’t shrink. I am grateful for the depth and breadth of the music and the keen use of the line in this collection, but mostly I’m taken by the way Glenis holds us up to the light. In her sure hands we shine!
When a voice ripens into full measure it is a moment to celebrate, and it was a feeling I couldn’t shake as I read Glenis Redmond’s superb and powerful new book The Listening Skin. Her poems are finely rendered daguerreotypes of histories entwined, of silences ended. Redmond often uses the image of flight here, and I couldn’t agree more; The Listening Skin has that certainty of lift, of knowing of how and when to turn once wing touches wind. The fuse that tells the bud now tells us that we are in the presence of a poet who has unfurled her finest moment.