Like the wolf depicted in the collection’s cover illustration, my mouth was open in anticipation. And like the small hand shown reaching into that wolf’s mouth, what I was reaching towards—even captivated by—was the experience of pain ... Reading Brute felt this way to me: like power spoken from woman to woman. This was the way in which I first read it: aloud, cover to cover, with one of the women in my life ... This is not to say that Skaja offers a cure, or a vision of perfect healing. She resists the sweet and clean conclusion, the body returned to wholeness, the bird to flight, the house to order ... it strikes me that the impulse to worship and crucify is the very essence of healing ... What a beautiful fall that is: not from grace but into power, not from home but into the habitation of the self.
[A] powerful debut collection ... In free verse and prose poems, Skaja divides phrases in an unsettling way ... This question of agency and transformation runs through Skaja’s poems without tripping up. Heart and mind move together fluidly. Her poetry takes risks and resonates with a strange beauty.
... taut, ferocious ... In the midst of so much complication, certain poems may seem to end too easily, but others are riddled, deftly complex ... the poems’ furious compression feels carnal, and the intensity of feeling becomes almost mystic ... In the midst of so much complication, certain poems may seem to end too easily, but others are riddled, deftly complex ... This is a book about survival, and a welcome, confident debut.
... Emily Skaja writes with astonishing skill and versatility ... Variety is Skaja’s game: she deploys non-sequiturs and elliptical imagery with surgical precision, seeking power in contradiction, masking a drama impossible to disguise ... [Skaja's] emotional range keeps extending as the collection unfolds ... Emily Skaja brings an inventive imagination and fearless pursuit of craft to Brute, a voice fully formed in a captivating first book. We can expect great things from her in the future.
We take pedestrian objects for granted; but for Skaja, mundane landscapes mean so much more ... Skaja knows exactly how to engage nature, readers, and life. Her diverse poetics prove her broad range of skills. She takes risks. Her poems range from narrative to free verse, several of which use free association to encapsulate metaphors. All poems in Brute flow with precision and ease.
It is in the space carved out by Plath’s poems that Brute by Emily Skaja enters, her voice echoing among the chamber inhabited by poets like Sylvia Plath and Anne Carson ... Brute is itself a chamber inhabited by strangeness doled out into manageable doses, taking the shape of four sections in the book, corresponding loosely to loss, grief, anger, and strength. The eerie landscape creeps into the poems along with recurring images of birds and flight ... The narrative is disjointed and takes place in recurrent cycles, often times revisiting the same event or emotion. Yet, Brute is intent on breaking the silence and cycle of abuse ... Brute embraces the limitations of narrative in response to trauma—becoming a portrait completed in layers, each successive one bringing the image into clarity. Brute becomes a recreation narrative, with each new cycle re-manifesting the same characters in different iterations, slowly growing towards health.