Booklist: Starred Review of An Arrangement of Skin

One night, poet Journey found herself calling a Houston suicide hotline. How she got to that dark place in her life is the subject of this exceptionally vibrant collection. A seven-year relationship broken by her own infidelity and a subsequent end of a mentoring friendship are repeated anchor events as she examines her life. Like the second essay, a detailed account of being a student in a beginner’s taxidermy class taught by a former Disney employee, Journey carefully constructs a near-living creature out of her past and selective histories. She recalls her father being mistaken for a spy in South America; the uncontrolled vining of wisteria throughout the history of Richmond, Virginia, and haunting reminders of bad decisions. Zoos of antiquity, modern-day tattooed pirates, and ghost stories are all drawn together with Journey’s poetic talent. Memories of Virginia Commonwealth University, Houston, and California are presented as though Journey was conducting a tour of her most intimate transitional moments. This retrospective does not alienate with its personal tone. Rather, the reader is invited to reflect on a life’s many transitions and how they become part of the self.

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