The University of Wisconsin Press



Bird Skin Coat
Angela Sorby

The Brittingham Prize in Poetry
Ronald Wallace, General Editor

Winner of the 2009 Brittingham Prize in Poetry, selected by Marilyn Nelson

Bird Skin Coat is brimming with startling moments of beauty found within a rusty and decayed landscape. With wild lyrical images of ascent and descent—doves and dives, sparrows and slugs, attics and cellars—this collection reflects Sorby’s keen eye for blending images. As they shuttle between the Upper Midwest and the Pacific Northwest, these poems explore how the radical instability of the world is also the source of its energy.

        The woman he hit

is still 42. She notes with wonder

how her parka fits her perfectly

the way a dove’s skin holds

the whole bird together.


is not a thing with feathers,

it’s old, bald, and blind,

a pope who can’t decipher

the man’s name,

                             David Pratt,

as he scrawls it on scratch paper.

—excerpt from “Bird Skin Coat”

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“Angela Sorby’s collection blends the comic and the tragic in entirely original ways. These poems gaze inward and outward and travel through the world with a keen eye and an unfailing ear for the miraculous music of ordinary language. She brings to each detail a luminous intensity, made that much more startling by its casual subjects—fender-benders, motherhood, the Midwest. Sorby’s is an important voice, speaking to the most important subjects without fear or pretense. Bird Skin Coat is full of striking imagery and compassionate skepticism —an exciting new contribution to American poetry.”—Laura Kasischke, author of Dance and Disappear


“Angela Sorby says, ‘The camera’s holier than the human mind: see how it filters out the truth and leaves the beauty.’ But Sorby’s disposition as a poet is to keep the truth in the picture—the rude, uncoordinated, self-destructive truth—and the skids and barrel rolls of perspective she performs with her idiomatic lyricism always keep the poem alive.”—Tony Hoagland, author of What Narcissism Means to Me


Angela Sorby is associate professor of English at Marquette University. She is author of two books, Distance Learning: Poems and Schoolroom Poets: Childhood, Performance, and the Place of American Poetry.

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the cover of Sorby's book is blue, with an illustration of a white bird dressed in a woman's dress.

April 2009

LC: 2008038492 PS

94 pp.   7 x 10

Paper $14.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-23194-1
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