Friday, February 12, 2016

Poets to See at AWP: Merna Dyer Skinner

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:


     Father’s thick fingers bait our hooks and cast our lines,
     sending shimmying circles across the lake. When
     the ripples smooth to nothing, I sigh, as if with them. I am five. 

     Dragonflies helicopter overhead. My line jerks with my first fish—
     too small to keep. Father releases itit’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.
     The difference between the wind in my hair and the wind on the waves
     nothing more than quarks in motion here or there.

     Buttery fingers wiped on white linen leave the DNA
     of ancient crustaceans. On the table, a splayed lobster tail,
     crab shells sucked dry and the diamond ring I’ve cast aside.

     I slip from the room while this man who once seemed so alluring
     takes a call. Survival is a question of instinct, moving this way
     rather than that. Seeing the bait bag for what it isa test.

As you will discover in her biography, Merna is certainly not new to writing. She is a consummate professional, successfully applying and publishing her communications and consulting skills in the business world for years. She brings the same intelligence, artistry, and aesthetic sensibility to writing poetry and writing about poetry that brought her success in other fields. 

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

Merna Dyer Skinner is a poet, photographer and essayist, and offers business communications skills coaching through her company, Satori Communications, Inc. Her business articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, and Success, among others. Her first chapbook, A Brief History of Two Aprons, published by Finishing Line Press, will be released in late March and may be available at table 1312 at this year’s AWP conference in Los Angeles.  

Merna’s poetry has also appeared in: MiPOesias, Star 82 Review, Mojave River Review, Silver Birch Press and Squaw Valley Review. She is currently working on a series of poems that capture moments and places of stillness in our lives often distracted by motion and movement. Merna shares her Venice, California home with Sophie, a golden retriever and her sixth rescue dog.  To contact Merna, visit And to read reviews of her chapbook, go to:

1 comment:

granddaddy said...

I don't know the other poems you had to choose from, but this one certainly invites further exploration of Merna's work! Seems very well-chosen. If I had attended AWP two years ago, I would certainly have sought her out.