When I met Merna Dyer Skinner two years ago in an AWP panel on the topic of "Writers Over 60" I was positive of two things. I was certain that the panel would deal in some way with writers who had begun writing later in life, since I had sent in a proposal for that very topic entitled "Late to the Dance, But Can Still Cut the Rug: On becoming an emerging poet later in life." It was not accepted. And the reason it wasn't, I had been told, was because there was a panel that would deal with that issue. There was not. This panel dealt exclusively with writers who had written all of their lives and were now winding down their careers with editors half their age.
Whenever Merna approached me after the panel adjourned, requesting my business card because I had inquired about help for those of us who were the new old poets and writers, I was just as certain about something else: that she was not attending the panel for herself, but rather to take notes for some "older writer," since there was no way she fit the description of a "writer over 60." I'm still certain of that, even though after getting to know her, I've found her to be a terrific emerging poet, with her first chapbook coming out within the next few weeks from Finishing Line Press (hopefully in time to be at their AWP book fair table #1312).
Hear, then, a poem from her forthcoming chapbook:
too small to keep. Father releases it—it’s mother-of-pearl scales glimmering in the
morning light, cold body undulating deeper until it disappears.
Shrimp carapace scattered on a white plate. I am twenty-five.
I will update this post prior to AWP to let you know if you will be able to find her at the Finishing Lines Press book fair table and, if so, when. As the above poem attests, Merna Dyer Skinner is a poet with work you should keep your eyes and ears on, so if you can catch her for a few minutes at AWP, you should. If not, visit her online site at http://www.mernadyerskinner.com.