Frost in the Low Areas

Karen Skolfield


The health survey said
he would live to 76 and I, 86.
Something to do with men’s

hearts on their worn old grapevines.
Something to do with their will
to lay down and die. In the westerns,

how glad they were to give their lives
away. Bad guy, if you can’t shoot down
a junebug’s nostril, you don’t stand

much of a chance. Men, thinking
they don’t have to cut power
to a bound-up sawblade.

Just think, Dennis says. Ten years
to yourself. No one stealing
the sheets or the last of the ham.

He says this as we make pesto.
This is how we joke with
each other, ha ha, and then

we kiss. Seriously, he says,
imagine no more socks
on the mantel. My arms

the sharp odor of garlic. Basil.
Parmesan cheese. Tonight,
a frost the herbs

won’t survive. Twilight
we worked the rows,
frantic, our gentleness gone.

Behind us, nothing but stems
and their faint heat. Before us,
the first crisp morning.



In Praise of Frost in the Low Areas

“In her magnificent debut collection, Karen Skolfield made me fall in love with poetry all over again, reminding me of its divine power to find the extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary. She understands that poetry does not exist independently; it is pulled out of all we see, without pretense or artifice, and not in the obvious and expected ways either. Her poems surprise with each turn of the line; they foray into the unexpected discoveries and dimensions. After reading her poems, I will never again look at a baby, a fossil, a painting, a key, a homunculus—or myself—as I had before. If poetry is meant to challenge and change our perceptions of the world and ourselves, then Karen is by all means an extraordinary poet.”

​—Richard Blanco


“With Frost in the Low Areas, Karen Skolfield’s debut collection, a multi-faceted poet enters our midst. In these well made and welcoming poems Skolfield is a country mouse, a girl in the woods, a daughter, a mother, a lover, a friend, a wife, a soldier and most of all, in her measured lines, a poet of grace, wit and purpose. I love how these poems examine what Skolfield encounters, inviting us in, letting us go renewed and eager and prepared to know more.”

​—Dara Wier


Judge’s Statement for Frost in the Low Areas

“I was so engaged by the voice in Frost in the Low Areas. My first impression was of its liveliness and energy; but I had not read many poems in the manuscript before I became aware of something darker, smarter, harder, sadder, truer even than the wit. Our poems, writes poet Mary Ruefle in an essay, must be more sentimental, not less, must matter more, and somehow this rousing, spirited voice goes into the difficult stuff with a lovely, unsparing tenderness.”

​—Nancy Eimers



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