Brute (Paperback)


By Emily Skaja

Graywolf Press, 9781555978358, 72pp.

Publication Date: April 2, 2019

List Price: 16.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Selected by Joy Harjo as the winner of the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets

Emily Skaja’s debut collection is a fiery, hypnotic book that confronts the dark questions and menacing silences around gender, sexuality, and violence. Brute arises, brave and furious, from the dissolution of a relationship, showing how such endings necessitate self-discovery and reinvention. The speaker of these poems is a sorceress, a bride, a warrior, a lover, both object and agent, ricocheting among ways of knowing and being known. Each incarnation squares itself up against ideas of feminine virtue and sin, strength and vulnerability, love and rage, as it closes in on a hard-won freedom.

Brute is absolutely sure of its capacity to insist not only on the truth of what it says but on the truth of its right to say it. “What am I supposed to say: I’m free?” the first poem asks. The rest of the poems emphatically discover new ways to answer. This is a timely winner of the Walt Whitman Award, and an introduction to an unforgettable voice.

About the Author

Emily Skaja grew up in rural Illinois and is a graduate of the creative writing MFA program at Purdue University. Her poems have been published in Best New Poets, Blackbird, Crazyhorse, FIELD, and Gulf Coast. She lives in Memphis, Tennessee.

Praise For Brute: Poems

“Emily Skaja’s Brute is at once terrifying and hypnotic, strange and yet profoundly meaningful. . . . Skaja’s strangeness is emotive and as such her complex poetry demands attention and easily enchants readers with the need to know more. Satisfied and panting, the reader is hooked—this collection is nothing short of phenomenal.”Crab Fat Magazine

“Emily Skaja reaches for nature in Brute to overcome the loss of an abusive lover, to overcome grief. . . . Skaja knows exactly how to engage nature, readers, and life. Her diverse poetics prove her broad range of skills. She takes risks. . . . All poems in Brute flow with precision and ease.”The New York Journal of Books

“The poems in Emily Skaja’s Brute speak of brutality, of breaking, of endings, of beginnings. Brute is an elegy for a relationship’s end, an intimate excavation, but also, these poems are a rhapsody, a rage. Skaja’s poetry is deft, nimble, willing to inhabit contradictions—‘What is this impulse in me to worship & crucify / anyone who leaves me.’ Each poem is exquisitely crafted, visceral, indelible. Brute will cut right through you, cut deep, but the writing is so assured, so necessary, that you will welcome the wound.”—Roxane Gay

Brute, though a collection of singular poems, is essentially one long, elegiac howl for the end of a relationship. It never lets up—this living—even when the world as we knew it is crushed. So what do we do with the brokenness? We document it, as Emily Skaja has done in Brute. We sing of the brokenness as we emerge from it. We sing the holy objects, the white moths that fly from our mouths, and we stand with the new, wet earth that has been created with our terrible songs.”—Joy Harjo, judge’s citation for the Walt Whitman Award