Voices Through Skin by Theresa Senato Edwards
Reviewed by Seth Jani

Voices Through Skin is the first full-length collection by Theresa Senato Edwards, a poet working out of New York, and is a force comparable to very little else I know of on the contemporary scene. Her style certainly owes something to the best of the confessional poets, and it contains many of the energies one finds in Sexton or Plath: dark, disruptive compulsions, suicides, abortions, divorces, spiritual failures.
But what makes this book so great (and it is great) and elevates it above being just a very gracefully-written record of one person’s inner life and outer struggles, is that it is written in a voice that eludes any solid definition; there is a speaker in the poems, but no author. 
In fact one is not sure at times just who the speaker is in the poem. It is very often clearly autobiographical. At times Theresa herself is speaking; at other times it seems to be memory itself, the memory of her mother, of her father, of friends lost, of an Italian towel that has after endless uses absorbed the actions of the hands that used it.
And sometimes it even seems it is the voice of the culture speaking through the skin of the book, of the pages; our culture speaking in its darkest, most-possessive habit and tone.


But no matter where the voice comes from, it is always haunted, always graceful, and most importantly always interesting. 
In “The Game Show Hour” we are touched by the eerie images of the speaker’s long dead parents aglow in the light of “TV game shows/In those interludes of Jeopardy” and the sort of desperate consolation as she lays, “head tucked perfectly in between my husband’s armpit and shoulder” as his knuckles press against “my left breast bone/my parents’ absence.”
An equal desperation hovers around the incredible “Your Attempt” in which a male friend recounts his failed suicide, which the listener painstakingly remembers, “You tell me how your head must have hit the chair/I envision your right temple accosting those baby blue spindles on its way to the concrete floor.”
The man describes coming back into consciousness after the foiled attempt “I woke up like I was dreaming” and we are swept into that strange, half-lit feeling. The poem begins and ends with point-blank lines from the speaker “I’m sorry I wasn’t there to stop you” and “I’m sorry I can’t listen to the particulars”. That resigned desperation encloses the poem on each end and is stunning. It’s like a dream that starts and stops with a breathtaking punch to the abdomen. 

But for all the pain and chaos in these poems there are equal attempts made by their inhabitants to bring order upon the world. Though in fitting with the pulse of the book these are no grand, abstract reachings for transcendence that come out in clean, ascetic lines but aspirations that are thwarted and twisted by the threads of neuroses and despair that entangle the myriad of voices in the book. 
In “Her Rituals” the speaker’s daughter brushes her teeth in strokes of three and in movements that form a crucifix “three stood for father, son, and holy ghost/three stood for safety.” In “Hot Tea Cooled” the father insists on a regimen of hot tea that has been left out to slowly cool even as the daughter gives a litany of reasons why “tea should be hot.” 
These longings for order are grand and legitimate feelings, but the nervous, neurotic ticks of the poem’s characters as they come into play make them human, make this a book about humans on a most intimate and profound scale.

Theresa’s writing is breathtaking and nerve-racking in its descriptive ability. Her eyes and ears are attuned to something very deep, powerful and potentially sinister that is alive in everyone and everything around us and is captured beautifully by her dark attention to detail.
Her poems are a dose of earthbound feelings and sentiments that are sure to bring even the airiest reader back down to the level of our scarred, endangered planet. 
“The doctor on ER duty inserted anesthetic-filled needle into troy’s injured brow before demonstrating superb sewing skills, troy’s scream-breathless whispers-steadied each stitch.” For an interesting experiment try reading this poem (cleverly titled “Singing”) after a poem like Shelley’s “To a Skylark”. You may find the experience similar to a quick down-trip on an elevator.

Theresa Senato Edwards has without a doubt created a beautiful, complex and extremely moving collection that makes a particularly promising debut. 
Voices Through Skin is full of articulate human voices that seem to arise as the author so elegantly puts it “from somewhere invisible”. A somewhere that may turn out to embedded deep in the author’s own body, in the machinery of the culture, maybe even in the back-lit windows of our own private confessionals. Go to Sibling Rivalry Press and get it now.