The Knowing Animals

By Emily Skov-Nielsen

The Knowing Animals
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Poems that sing, in various notes of female voice, the human being as an embodied, contemplative, feeling animal.

In Skov-Nielsen's thrumming debut, The Knowing Animals, our consciousness is interconnected with the surrounding trees, bugs, rivers, atmospheres, and cosmos. Here, ... Read more


Poems that sing, in various notes of female voice, the human being as an embodied, contemplative, feeling animal.

In Skov-Nielsen's thrumming debut, The Knowing Animals, our consciousness is interconnected with the surrounding trees, bugs, rivers, atmospheres, and cosmos. Here, flowers escape Victorian domestication and ally with girls' green powers of attraction. Here, the social politeness of motherly domesticity and the raw dangers of adolescent sexual awakening are shot through with blood pulsing under the skin, with oxygen exchanged in gasps of breath. Here, everything tender and petalling is also raw and mothervisceral.

This is a book of entanglements: the poems twist and turn through a plurality of metaphorical associations involving botany, zoology, astronomy, biology, psychology, and mythology to complicate and expand human conceptions of nature. At the same time, they explore themes such as motherhood, pregnancy and birth, sexuality, adolescence, and the rise of technology, all the while shifting through a variety of tones: romantic, mythological, religious, scientific, wistful, and playful.

"These poems prod and sing, distilling language with technical precision and the intimacy of a perceptive mind at work. Skov-Nielsen speaks to the urgency of the world we inhabit, particularly attuned to how the personal is entangled with the ecological. The Knowing Animals is incisive and insightful, a debut that rouses us into a realm 'suspended between the gutter / and the incandescent bulb of sky. '" --Cassidy McFadzean, author of Hacker Packer and Drolleries

"Saturated and prowling with a mesmerizing, tear-away cast of nocturnal animals, satellites, fireflies, toadstools, and Instagram characters playing their hands fast and loose--they may lay claim to this lush book, but don't be lulled or gulled. These daring, over-the-top, five-sided, lyrical poems will keep you awake, basking in fever-bright light, rewilding and transforming your life, if you let them through the door. " --Jan Conn, author of Tomorrow's Bright White Light

"The Knowing Animals drops an omniscient wild into multi-generational domesticity. Skov-Nielsen's poems burst cellular, a corporeal blossoming that mistakes technology for bird call, often blurring the line between human-animal identities. Like a live rabbit freed from the fox's mouth, these poems twitch to run. " --Emily Nilsen, author of Otolith

Emily Skov-Nielsen

Emily Skov-Nielsen is an MA graduate from UNB?s English/Creative program. Her poems have been published (and longlisted in several contests) in journals across Canada including The Malahat Review, The Fiddlehead, The Puritan, CV2, Prairie Fire, and Prism International. She is the author of Volta (Anstruther Press, 2017). She currently works for The Fiddlehead, Atlantic Canada?s International Literary Journal. In the past she worked for several years at a bookstore, was an Adult Education Instructor, and has dabbled in social work. She currently lives and writes in Fredericton, NB.



Loose and bloody in the bathwater, a crossbred
sea star/sponge/jellyfish of mucosal tissue,

a strand of uterus, a small stringed instrument,
a nest, a tuft of down feather fallen from a bird

in the hand of my body (a hedge sparrow)--
or maybe it's a knot of spider silk. It is time

spelled out--f-o-u-r weeks to be exact; a shredded page
from a calendar eaten by the moon whose teeth

shine as it bites through my lower abdomen, a pain
lit from the inside like a paper lantern--yes,

this is what my body has become overnight,
a ranting lunatic of clarity and impulse, dysphoria

and cravings--a bloated hull, red sky at morning,
an eyelid turned inside out, a dauntless sea-craft

crossing waters in an equatorial counter current
spurred by monsoon winds--wind spiking

the ocean's surface like a dragon fruit; my body
is the red rind of a tart, hidden pomegranate,

the air is appetite, tonguing the pulpy seeds
(of what?) inside me, inciting a slow evisceration,

catabolization, breakdown in the bloodstream,
the hemodynamics of the world, its nonstop

pulse searching for the aortic semi-lunar valve
in the arterial tree, a big-tooth aspen perhaps,

yes, that's the one. Don't call me hysteric, call me
wisteric, bearing racemes of blue-lilac papilionaceous

flowers and wrist-thick trunks, collapsing latticework.
I'm a head case with an acute associative disorder

tending a garden of hypochondriasis with offshoots
of violet amnesias, long convoluted tendrils climbing

a trellis of intersecting stakes--I'm a recovering psycho-
somatic somnambulating between the body and the mind,

rebuilding the distance with words until relapsing
into this poem, this unmoored monastery of endometrial

cells adrift, this intertidal rag-bag tatter of home, no longer
a home but a memory--far and near, loose and bloody.


I mistake the call of a hermit thrush for the melody
of your Download Complete--what does that say about me?

Fresh tar and lilacs, manufactured capsule-Blue No. 2 sky,
a note of the decomposed lifts sharp and tangy from the glistering trash.

To the woman with the bleach-blond hair, whizzing by in a wind of fuchsia bicycle:
how dare you snag me on the antler tip of the buck inked on your bare calf.

Watch my step--coltsfoot clambers from concrete clefts, groundlings
of the groundsel tribe, lovers of rifts and shambles, larvae food for the Gothic moth.

See the children climbing through neon jungle gyms, clutching fistfuls
of dandelions? Light-freighted harvests emerging from plastic tunnels.

Scratching my sunset voyeur-itch, peeping into intimate caves of LCD glow:
a man bathes in media streams of cold moon-like light--his face, a puckered O.

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