Notes on the half-hidden: “Thimblerig” by Annette Skade


Thimblerig by Annette Skade

Bradshaw Books 2013

63 pages

Notes on the half-hidden

Annette Skade’s debut collection Thimblerig was published by Bradshaw Books in 2013. Thimblerig is a collection of some 53 poems on themes of family, familial history, and on the poetic striving for voice. Skade’s sub-thematic flow, her buried themes, are brought out using the symbolism of light,  and of the natural world that surrounds her.

Skade is at her best as a writer and recorder of history and tale, her preoccupations are carried through the text as light-maps. She uses the symbols of the caul, the moth, and the cord (as rope, umbilicus, even as muscle ). Her symbols often denote boundary both in the  physical and in the emotional sense.  

Women play an important role in Skade’s familial tracery, her bloodline. Thimblerig is dedicated to Skade’s mother and to her daughter. In Thimblerig Skade’s grandmother forms the apex of the matrilineal pyramid, appearing in The Caul

The Caul

She was born with a caul on her face.
The mid-wife said it was good luck,
cut away the membrane,
examined its milky translucence
and placed it in tissue to be kept.
Her father sold it to a sailor
as a charm against drowning.

All her life she loved chiffon scarves.
Its my belief she missed
part of herself sold away.

p 11 Thimblerig

Family tales are held together with fine wisps of poetry which will transmogrify into light. Annette Skade uses light to map her history and to create boundaries of safety in which to enclose and keep family safe. There is an element of ephemeral about her use of light which she has developed into a fine sense in the beautiful Oak Grove,

Oak Grove

I draw a ring
around this house:

snail shell

Strophe, antistrophe:
from oak to oak,
bin to bench,
winter green to herb,
washing line, shed.

Tread the seasons,
serve the sickle moon,
observe it spring,
orange, low on a dark sea.

A rope of days, twined strong,
to ward off the stranger,
the letter come to dispossess.

Oak Grove answers to A Map of My House In Terms Of Light, where the poet shows her reader the physical interior of the home traced with light: as impermanent, subject to deep loss and to necessary change. The exterior ring of protection and enclosure traced by the poet belies the move to drift of the lives of those she means to protect and to keep. those that are within the home:

To plot all changes
from dawn to dusk
and through each season,
I need many such maps
an atlas of light.

from  A Map of My House In Terms Of Light, Thimblerig.

Skade is always striving to make her meaning through her use of symbol. In one poem here she has capped a false tail onto the work Papyrus Fragment forcing her ending too soon. Skade deserves a broader canvas for her imaginative play, which she will follow through with in her next collection.

Two moth poems occupy the ground where the poets strives to examine the vulnerability of her existence. I wanted to look at these closer because they form the penates and laertes of the collection and of the poet’s thematic concerns. These are Papyrus Fragment and Restless.


A hundred moths made a lattice
on blue-black window pane,
some the size of wrens
others torn corners of paper:
a nightly frantic race of wings.

Papyrus Fragment

It darts, bares a blaze
of underwing to plain sight;
this endless fragile need
to make a mark,
to come to light.

Skade’s investigation of nature is where she triumphs as in Solstice Rose. This poem and Oak Grove in particular show a poet who is  an imagist. A perfect image is accomplished in thirteen brief words,

Solstice Rose

Thorn switches
a single yellow bud,
against wind whips:
a sundrop.

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