University of Southern Indiana

Dennis Hinrichsen

Co-Winner of the 2014 Michael Waters Poetry Prize 

Skin Music seeks provisional Edens of being and knowing across a spectrum of ever-changing—flooded, flooding—landscapes. The central motifs, skin and music, are lenses to this inquiry as the poems branch out from a Midwest river town ethos, the geography of family and the breakdown of the local body to the larger, more permanent skins of poetry, art and music. The poems “try on” dialysis and Celan, they “try on” Kline and Parkinson’s, they reach out against the shutting down of each moment 600 years into a future built on the chords of a John Cage composition. Lyrical and driven, they strive for that shared human desire of residence in a believable, knowable place.


"The kingdom of a lake harvested for ice, Rilke’s zombie angels, radioactive time aging the electric heart—the poems in Skin Music tantalize the ear while jumpstarting the body. Here the heart, that overtaxed organ, gets nailed to its grief again and again, but that doesn’t mean this book refuses wonder. In fact, it insists: “blood wants an angel but all it has is Monday.” Musical to the point of breathlessness, Hinrichsen’s lines remind us that even in death, a body is still journeying, still becoming all it will be. These poems are about these journeys—these rivers, these floods, these baptisms, this kiss a mother bestows on a child’s face like a cure, this man’s hand lain on his dead mother’s leg, this cat resting its living weight on an ankle, the lightest of tethers in a flood-wrung world."

-Traci Brimhall


"Dennis Hinrichsen’s Skin Music is packed with shocks that end up seeming inevitable—that’s their magic, and their wonder. Each word feels carved onto the page, precise, resonant. The sharp edges of memory fragments fuse into each other to create waves of transcendence. Even the white spaces of these poems buzz and glow with electric heat. Ride the mad music of this fine, fine collection."

-Jim Daniels


"The poems of Skin Music are cinematic and personal, a roiling autobiographical medley that is always looking outward. From 'The preacher’s hands still snorkeling my mouth' to the boy soldier with his toe on a trigger, Hinrichsen’s details dive into the everyday 'white heat' while detailing the entombments and unravelings of the lives around him."

-Rebecca Morgan Frank


“Less the Mark Twain of popular imagination than the Harry Crews of unflinching memoir, Hinrichsen populates Skin Music with bullies and molesters, the ‘shard-splintered wreckage’ filtered now through knowledge of the poetry of Celan, the music of Cage, and the art of Kline. ‘Shook foil—that’s what a river is.’ His search for belief beyond the past, for ‘the godface’ in whichever incarnation it may reside, deepens these richly textured yet starkly beautiful poems.”

-Michael Waters


Read sample poems...

Read Z.G. Tomaszewski's interview with Dennis... 

Download Skin Music reader's guide...

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