Friday, June 3, 2011


I'm very pleased to announce that my collection of poetry SKELETON LEAVES--a dark retelling of J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan to be published by Kelp Queen Press--has been sent to the printer!

Thanks so much to Sandra Kasturi--poet, friend, and publisher--and to Chris Roberts of Dead Clown Art--artist extraordinaire, who with very little prompting brought the collection to life. Ordering details once I have them.

Cover Art by the wickedly talented Chris Roberts (

“He was a lovely boy, clad in skeleton leaves and the juices that ooze out of trees but the most entrancing thing about him was that he had all his first teeth…”

What is a skeleton leaf?

The image is haunting for its juxtaposition of eternal life and ever-present death, its treatment of the loveliness of the child’s form, the undeveloped rawness of youth, the baby teeth grinning in a tiny, impish mouth.

But what is a skeleton leaf?

Perhaps it is the autumn-brittle husk of a dead leaf, having shed all matter but the tightened network of veins.   Or is it something else?  A leaf.  A folio.  We write on the bodies of trees now, pulped and pressed flat.  Do the ghosts of redwoods and pine haunt our poems, dropping skeletal traces of themselves into the fabric of metaphor and simile?

For me, the phrase reminds me of days spent at the Bodleian pouring over fourteenth-century manuscripts lovingly inked when we wrote on real bodies, the skins of goat, sheep, calf—and, in some rare cases, man.   It echoes parchment rotted down to the barest filaments of skin and sinew—the lost leaves of history.  Prophecies of the Cumaean sibyl burnt to dust for the stinginess of a Roman king.  Chaucer’s Book of the Lion and Shakespeare’s Cardenia, both surviving, perhaps, but as of yet undiscovered.

What does it mean to wrap yourself in the leaves of dead books?  At what point does the flesh of a goat become the new skin of a boy?  Of a prince?  Of a monster?

The Peter I first knew was an inextinguishable ball of light blazing across my childhood imagination: fighting pirates, rescuing Indian princesses, and acting every inch the schoolyard tyrant among his friends.  The Peter I see now—in almost Nabokovian obsessive detail—is the lonely sociopath who kidnaps children from their parents and kills the Lost Boys when they reach a certain age.

Like a good mother, I love both these children equally.

This collection is not quite a retelling of Barrie’s Peter Pan in the traditional sense.  Rather, it takes the original as a palimpsest—a text whose surface can be scraped off and rewritten, both stories held simultaneously within the same writing space.

You may recognize bits of the original text, overlaid or interspersed throughout these poems.  You may also recognize other writers interspersed throughout. But perhaps you will also see something new.  I would call him my Peter, my Pan, but if Peter has taught us anything, it is that he is untamable by would-be mothers, lovers and authors alike.

For more information, sample poems, and the awesome cover and interiors go to my Skeleton Leaves page.