Keith Flynn might be the love child of William Blake and Etta James. In his latest collection, The Skin of Meaning, he moves easily from whisper to croon to full-throated growl. As in his five earlier collections, he shows his skillful use of alliteration and brilliant mastery of the vowel register. Most of the poems are cast in unobtrusive forms and conventional stanzas that allow the exuberant language and linguistic acrobatics to do their work. This collection has the breadth of vision and associative leaps across history, art, politics, and music that one has come to expect from Flynn. What I grew to appreciate most about it, though, was the profound level of engagement these poems demanded and consistently rewarded.
The longer poems show Flynn’s ability to sustain intensity while extending his tropes, most notably by the prevalence of enjambed lines that sweep the reader along in a torrent of images. “Baby Boomers,” for example, begins with an all-too-familiar lament that