Winter/Spring 2024 Poetry Preview: Medium by Johanna Skibsrud | Book*hug Press

Winter/Spring 2024 Poetry Preview: Medium by Johanna Skibsrud

Today we’re sharing the first title in our Winter/Spring 2024 Poetry Preview: Medium by Johanna Skibsrud!

From award-winning writer Johanna Skibsrud, Medium shares the lives and perspectives of women who—in their roles as biological, physical, or spiritual mediums—have helped to shape the course of history.

Helen of Troy, Anne Boleyn, Shakuntala Devi, Hypatia of Alexandria, Marie Curie: Medium interprets the voices of women vilified over time, silenced by famous husbands, forced into sex work, or wrongly accused. Reckoning with the dominant historical narratives of each woman’s era, Skibsrud underscores the power of poetry to bring about new formulations for understanding the relationship between past and present, self and other.

These deeply resonant and performative poems use language as a bridge across experience, sensibility, and time. Each exploration begins with a brief vignette inspired by the “vidas” that once began manuscripts of the troubadours. Both vidas and poems provide lyrical reinterpretations of real and imagined elements in the lives of scholars, scientists, computer engineers, mystics, entrepreneurs, artists, nurses, and other leaders.

“The accumulation of voices in Skibsrud’s Medium serves to reclassify individuality, offering a choral refuge and a devotion to a larger field of inquiry. Readers will delight and be haunted by the invocation of the ‘divine feminine.’” —Annie Guthrie, author of The Good Dark

Johanna Skibsrud has shared a video introduction to Medium in anticipation of the book’s release!

We also have an excerpt to share from the collection! Medium will be released on March 5, 2024, and is available for pre-order from our online shop or from your local independent bookstore.


What luck to find myself
like this, lit up, a single

speck at the end of a
long and narrow beam.

What luck to be at least
briefly illuminated —

a mote of dust, a
coagulate — caught; lit up.

To find myself ‘at the end’;
no, to be that end, a

particular body — a mouth,
a way of opening.

What luck! To bite down and find

there really is something out there
to sink one’s teeth into.

What luck — to see, or
begin to see, in perfect darkness

the becoming of teeth and lips,

the glare of eyeglasses….

To hear, in silence, the becoming of
a laugh, a shout.

To reach out and grasp,

or begin to,
the becoming of something

to seize
or be held by.

It has to be this way.

You have to invent
absolutely everything.

You have to dream it all up,
make it real.

You have to let your hand
hit on something when it

reaches out, you have to
give your words

something to catch against.


Johanna Skibsrud is the author of three previous collections of poetry, three novels—including the Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning novel, The Sentimentalists—and three nonfiction titles, including The Nothing That Is: Essays on Art, Literature, and Being, and most recently, Fool: A Study in Literature and Practice. An Associate Professor of English Literature at the University of Arizona, Johanna divides her time between Tucson, Arizona, and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

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