Floyd Skloot, Writer


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Approximately Paradise

Tupelo Press, Paper, 2005, 72 pp

Winner of a 2006 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Award: "The poems collected in Floyd Skloot's Approximately Paradise create a graceful narrative that will be compelling to anyone - poetry lover or not - who cares about love, loss, truth, baseball, or the beauty of living in the moment.  You'll want to read these poems out loud with someone you love."

Winner of a 2006 Pushcart Prize for the poem, "The Role of a Lifetime."

Finalist for the 2006 Oregon Book Award in Poetry.

Honorable Mention, Independent Publishers Book Award.

From the Publisher:

Floyd Skloot's fourth book of poetry, Approximately Paradise, is his most poignant and tender collection, and his most passionate.  This volume follows on the heels of his intensely interesting, soul-stirring memoir about living with brain disease, In the Shadow of Memory.  These new poems explore some of that territory with eloquence and sheer primal power, while other poems describe the aspects of his life that–despite his daunting challenges–approximate paradise.  Those discovering him for the first time will find themselves in the hands of a master, described by the Harvard Review as "a poet of singular skill and subtle intelligence."

Quotes from reviews of the book:

"To read this volume straight through is to lose one's mind to Skloot's vision, turn one's self over to the pliant but trustworthy guide of this sensitive and wide-reaching writer . . . . In just over 70 pages this talented writer takes readers from a secure place and moves us to question our own ability to hold firm in a world which may ladle out disease, infirmity, and bad luck. But he offers respite, too . . . . His new poems may be set in the twilight of knowing and forgetting, but the light also suffuses us in reassurance. In symphonies, in great paintings, in the love for mother for son and the son for this world, many have risen above pure madness to return from the stormy heaths. Floyd Skloot has once again reminded us that true art is not bound by a hard and fast reality." –Colleen Webster, The Baltimore Review

"The forty-four poems of Approximately Paradise show us various ways of looking at the world.  Sometimes Skloot's inspiration comes from composers (Brahms), painters (Gauguin), writers (Hardy), or even the Brooklyn Dodgers (Pee Wee Reese); but, no matter how different the settings or circumstances, the ruminations that result merge precision with clarity and join acceptance with a quality that comes very close to grace. . . . The sequence about his mother, now in her nineties and suffering from Alzheimer's disease, shows how much sheer power a personal poem can embody. . . . It is easy to be impressed by Skloot's considerable skills as a wordsmith, but what makes Approximately Paradise at once memorable and important is the way he writes about the painful with painful honesty, at the same time that he remains open enough to feel the wings of paradise gently beating somewhere up ahead." –Sanford Pinsker, The Sewanee Review

"In poem after poem, Approximately Paradise is finally about the victory of memory over unimaginable emptiness, and of form over formlessness. . . . Skloot continues to be a highly disciplined poet, confronting chaos to capture and tame this enemy.  There is ferocity living in his forms, coexisting with the sweetness of vanquishing sentiment." –Ron Slate, Prairie Schooner

"His courage, presented without self-pity, is moving, as is the solace he finds in loving his wife and the landscape of Amity.  It's a question not only about fear of frailty, but about art and the conditions in which we make it.  Extraordinary art has come out of mental anguish, but Skloot asserts a less romantic view - that it can come in spite of it." –Frances Phillips, Speakeasy

"It takes great skill to respect the suffering of the sick and their families while also grasping and transforming it into a work of art. Floyd Skloot is the first poet I have run across in possession of such powers. . . . Skloot impresses with an ear attuned to the counterpoint of sentence rhythm, rhyme and meter, and with the true artist's commitment to making the most private and personal suffering revealable to others through a selfless attention to the vivid scene and dispassionate narrative. . . . Skloot's chronicles of pathos depict the human individual (sometimes distinguished by accomplishment, sometimes simply by being family) who is robbed of his rightful powers through what is literally internal, but is external to the soul and therefore feels like an act of violence or confinement. . . . Skloot's depictions are startling, because they cast the frustrations of one's sense of internal imprisonment and failing light in scenes that capture and elevate rather than betray their subjects. . . . Skloot's sense of physical suffering aids him in depicting other kinds of loss. . . . Many poems that other poets would clumsily cast as first-person lyrics, Skloot renders with the restraint of the third-person. . . . These are gripping poems that surpass all others I have seen in an increasingly crowded genre." –James Matthew Wilson, Notre Dame Review

"Approximately Paradise begins with King Lear and ends in the silence of a bedroom before night's curtain rises on day.  Throughout, a host of characters - from painter John Constable to writer Carson McCullers to Baseball-Hall-of-Famer Pee Wee Reese - take turns on Skloot's stage, where limitations are encountered and countered with imagination and resilience." –B. T. Shaw, The Oregonian

"Skloot's music in this book moves in us with a truth that is achingly beautiful.  These works are composed of the stuff of reality and undistilled emotion." –Dan Hays, Salem Statesman Journal

"If you've never read any of Skloot's poems, you're missing out on stirring, emotional pleasures." –Eve Anthony Hanninen, The Centrifugal Eye

"In poem after amazing poem in Approximately Paradise, Floyd Skloot deploys form (a sonnet on his mother's Alzheimer's, a long narrative on the ghost of the legendary Dodger fielder Pee Wee Reese), continuously seeking that place where, Rilke tells us, beauty is born out of just-bearable terror. And again and again, he finds that place; finds it a place suffused with tenderness." –Gregory Orr, author of The Caged Owl and Poetry as Survival

"A disabled man in a Brooklyn Dodgers cap living in the woods of Oregon and writing beautifully crafted poems about the loss of memory - his own and his mother's - while, in the same breath, he names the species of natural life around him. This man forging brotherhood with composers, artists and other writers in vivid portraits of their last - or first! - moments--enlisting Gauguin in the Oregon landscape to articulate, approximately, a paradise. No one but Floyd Skloot could imagine this far ranging, poignant, compassionate, relentlessly elegant collection. After this feast, you might treat yourself further and read his essays In The Shadow of Memory as a companion volume." –John Allman, author of Loew's Triboro

"Floyd Skloot writes movingly about the personal - as in the heartbreaking suite concerning his mother's struggle with Alzheimer's - as well as the historical. No matter what he touches, his staggering grasp of human nature and his constant sympathy show themselves in poems that are beautifully detailed and observed. Above all, the tone of these poems, the gentle understatement that surely points to the wellspring of the emotion that lies beneath, is a testament to his skill and restraint. The world we encounter here is far from beatific, yet in this poet's masterful hands, life still seems rich and inviting. The graceful, complex and resonant poems of Approximately Paradise make us sharply aware of life's small and large ecstasies." –John Skoyles, author of Definition of the Soul and Secret Frequencies