Skin Horse
by Olivia Cronk

ISBN: 9780983148036
7 February 2012

Like a secret date with Lizzie Borden, these moody lyrics thrill as they incriminate. Skin Horse shows that history is a crime scene, and that crime is theatrical, rife with costumes, masks, hats, props, weapons, scripts, dialogue, wooden scenery and dreamlike reenactments. These poems are anachronistic yet uncannily alive, furtive yet frank like an incriminating note forgotten in an apron pocket. Cronk locks words together like a lace collar which flutters attractively even as it tightens at the reader’s throat. She writes, “with velvet trim / in the whistle of seeing.” She writes, “Is it too untoward to say Please Go Back to Normal Life?” She writes, “Gotta nest of woe a nest of wail / and pardon my tied-on prom.”

“The natural world in Skin Horse is a disaster zone, the characters, and by implication the reader, are ‘stepping on a million glass roaches’, they ‘die and rush into the planet.’ Animals, humans, and objects are interchangeable elements of atrocity kitsch. In this interconnected, multivalent universe there is no radical exclusion. Skin Horse is magical, it is prescient, and it has a nasty allure.”

– Laura Ellen Joyce, Entropy Mag / Enclave

“…Cronk releases my hand and disappears. Unlike Calvino, she will not be my guide. I must find my own way, must build my own map of the forest. Soon I will be confronted with lipstick lights and Polish girls and bare life and animal sores and miniature eggs and sunset skirts and mushroom clouds and cup scams and mausoleums and then a blank page.

The blank page invites me to sleep.”

– Christopher Higgs, Bomb Magazine

“Olivia Cronk is making poems that read like vignettes of a total story taken apart and restructured into a new song, the same story but told in razed and rebuilt ways.”

– J.A. Tyler, MonkeyBicycle

“Olivia, your book, Skin Horse, is not a collection of poems, but a collection of tiny + terrifying moments of language.  Your writing is syntactically-enchanted, your is writing is ‘very fucking chainlessly on golden floors.’”

– Daniela Olszewska, Horseless Press

“If ‘the wind cries Mary‘ sounds to you more like ‘The ring pulsed Maria‘ then you have your ears tuned to Cronk’s idiosyncratic sonics. You can’t be overtly prepared for Cronk’s directions, all you can do is gladly if a little hesitantly follow the paths her word combinations offer: ‘Back in the city in chains…….. trees typewritering……. I am indeed a nurse.‘ Skin Horse will stimulate some neurons to try some new actions, to scare up some gathering, to be thrilled to be amongst her magnifications.”

— Dara Wier

“Welcome to Skin Horse: Olivia Cronk’s topographical map of a version of the world in which deformed humans squirm through the muck of a mutilated nature: a burning zone of mechanical, brain-dripping horrors, a degraded rendering of the extreme consequences of natural and corporal decay.”

— Daniel Borzutzky


Olivia Cronk received her MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She currently teaches undergraduate writing and English courses.