Shells - Arnold, Craig - Yale University Press

Series Information
Yale Series of Younger Poets


  • Craig Arnold; Foreword by W.S. Merwin
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Out of Print.

Winner of the 1998 Utah Arts Council Original Writing Award for a book in poetry

Winner of the 1999 Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award

This year’s winner of the 1998 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition is Craig Arnold’s Shells, which was acclaimed as “a gifted collection of daring writing” by the contest judge, the distinguished poet W. S. Merwin. The book is an intriguing set of variations on the theme of identity. 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. “Friendships based on food,” Arnold writes, “are rarely stable”—this book is full of wildly unstable and bewitching friendships and other significant relations.

Craig Arnold received a B.A. in 1989 from Yale University. He later moved to Salt Lake City to pursue a doctorate in creative writing at the University of Utah. Arnold, who has served as an editor at Quarterly West magazine, received the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship in 1996. His poem “Hot” was featured in The Best American Poetry 1998; other work has appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, The Yale Review, and The New Republic.

Why I Skip My High School Reunions

Because the geeks and jocks were set in stone,
I, ground between. Because the girls I ate
lunch with are married now, most out of spite
—because the ones I spurned are still alone.
Because I took up smoking at nineteen, late,
and just now quit—because, since then, I’ve grown
into and out of something they’ve never known.
Because at the play, backstage, on opening night
she conjured out of the vast yards of her dress
an avocado and a razorblade,
slit the one open with the other, flayed
the pebbled skin, and offered me a slice

—because I thought that one day I’d say yes,
and I was wrong, and I am still afraid.