Cover image for Shells
Arnold, Craig, 1967-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Haven : Yale University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xv, 79 pages ; 25 cm.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
PS3551.R4835 S54 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



A collection of poems by Craig Arnold. Arnold plays on the idea of the shell as both the dazzling surface of the self and a hard case that protects the self against the assaults of the world. His poems narrate amatory and culinary misadventures.

Author Notes

Poet Craig Arnold was born on November 16, 1967. He received a B.A. in English from Yale University and a Ph.D in creative writing from the University of Utah. He published two collections of poetry: Shells (1999), which won the 1998 Yale Younger Poets Competition, and Made Flesh (2008). He won numerous honors and awards including the Amy Lowell Traveling Poetry Scholarship, the Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the US-Japan Creative Artists Exchange Fellowship, and the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize. He taught poetry at the University of Wyoming. He went missing on the small volcanic island of Kuchinoerabu-jima, Japan on April 30, 2009. It is believed that he fell off a cliff during a solo hike to explore an active volcano.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Chosen by W. S. Merwin, this year's Yale Series of Younger Poets selection further distinguishes the famous series. Arnold's "Hot," a standout among standouts in The Best American Poetry 1998 , reappears in it, along with other poems about food, tentative friendships, obsession, and self-destructiveness, and many more about love, sex, and family. Besides those matters, the poems are about shells, from the carapaces of the many sea creatures in them to the closed circuits of longtime relationships, as in the disquietingly humorous "Living with it," to the psychological armor of the people in the poems, such as the veil of chatter spun by the poet's date in "Scheherazade." Arnold writes out of his own experience, but he easily stands outside of himself, never seeming superior to anyone else, as likely to be a bozo as any guy who needs the lesson he teaches in "Locker room etiquette." He can be discomforting and amusing in the same poem, and technically, he is adept but relaxed in many verse forms. (Reviewed March 15, 1999)0300079095Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

As subjects, cast-offs, or figurative devices, Arnold marshals mussels, crabs, scallops, clams and barnacles. In "Little Shrimp" he imitates the involutions of spira mirabilis, and narrates a night in a Spanish "bullfight bar," recycling the words "camar¢nes," "pick" and "black eyes" as "Camar¢n de la Isla," "Pick-/Me-Up" and "black light." Such moments of facile male desire, in all its guises, drive the book: a "Great dark man" ("his hand around the glass/ is dark with fur") wields a noirish knife; a "Merman" requires "all the covers/ kicked off to accommodate me"; an elegy for Joy Division's Ian Curtis praises "the ardor of a Bonaparte, a FhrerÄ." A circumspect but not entirely unapproving examination of fleshy violence and bravado, "The Power Grip" contains directions for cunnilingus; "For a Cook" adds semen to an eggy alfredo sauce, then hair, and blood, and oil from the skin. The "weird housekeeping" of a "Hermit Crab" suggests Arnold's own watchful metric economiesÄhis varied stanza forms create a rigid external structure, while the subjects wriggle beneath. But their hard control often yields to blurry, colloquial human voice: "You say You made that up. You say That's sick./ You say The things men think of are so cruel." Readers will find Arnold's pearly conceits hard to resist, but for all their inspired technique, they offer little beyond the masculine clich‚s (straight and otherwise) they examine. As W.S. Merwin's first selection for the Yale Younger Poets series, this book is a disappointment. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This extremely accomplished first volume presents difficult poems, both in form and subject matter. They revolve around the hardened, supposedly protective shell; instead of feeling safe, however, the living creature cowers within. "Freud thought/ the brain developed from the skin, not/ to admit sensation but to shut it out." Seamlessly, the focus turns to people. Flavors and recipes remind Arnold of specific friends and lovers. But then, "friendships based on food are rarely stable." "Shore" is a little masterpiece, depicting friends joining friends, hinting at the severity of their lives and friendship but never telling, titillating the reader just enough to think more about his or her own life. Long and rambling, given structure as they are shoved into tight two- or three-line stanzas (reminiscent of a terrified clam or oyster), many poems teeter on the edge of loose rhyme. Shells is not an easy book to read. For those with the time and patience, it is not easily forgotten. Recommended for most poetry collections.ÄRochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.