Perplexed Skin




Published by Arlen House, Galway, Ireland in February 2008.
In Perplexed Skin you’ll find a dog which has learnt to sing songs by Henry Purcell, a ghost which haunts the pissoir of a modern city centre pub, a man who waits until Judgement Day to take his own life; characters as various as these occupy brief narratives that weave in and out of sequences where Eros and elegy predominate.



UNUSUAL IN ITS own way is Patrick Cotter's debut, Perplexed Skin. Its title sums up the book's concerns, which are chiefly with the romantic and sexual, but also with what it means to be comfortable - or not - in one's own skin. Cotter is well-known in literary circles as director of the Munster Literature Centre, as well as for his work with translation. All the more refreshing, then, to find a poet working within the "village" of contemporary poets but in a voice all his own; one which is unfashionable in the best sense.

Cotter clearly relishes language as much as he does sexuality: "Your mouth was a moist gourmet dessert" (Butterfly Girl); "A tigress is a girl who licks up/ all your purring like milk, before leaving you" (A Tigress Is . . .). He can be witty, too, as in The Singing Bichon, a nicely-judged study of dog-owning ambivalence informed by surrealism (this poodle performs arias - but only in private). Such highly-coloured imagery often resonates with European influence: the "bonsai-sized angel" on the book's first page could come straight from the Finn Ilpo Tiihonen, while Purchased Wisdom is dedicated to Haken Sandell, and one can see why from the opening lines: "Your body I strewed in cleft steaks,/ your rended head lay calmed before me". Internationalism breathes vigour into this work, and not only through the cast of girls - from Sweden, Japan, California, the Rhineland - its protagonist pursues.

-Fiona Sampson

The Irish Times May 2008

" Cotter is an intelligent writer, not only in the sense of having a poetic intelligence that enables him to manage his lines well, but in the sense of having a rational approach. He likes ideas, fools about with them, has a personal idiom and a sophisticated sensibility. ...... Cotter's vision of the world is not simple nor does he sing of it in rapturous tones. His mirroring of complexities shows just how mature and self-assured he is."

- Maurice Harmon,

Cork Literary Review September 2009


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"quirky, strange and thought-provoking. There are odd ideas and disturbing imagery that are both serious and humorous. These are the kind of poems that restore your faith in well crafted, serious, original poetry."
- Books Ireland April 2008

“…by the time of the last, fine sequence ‘The Garden’, we are in the grip of something truly special.”

- Verbal May 2008

“Reading these poems is strolling off on an adventure with linguistics, imagery, a poet’s unrestrained imagination. Patrick Cotter shows us the benefits, and craft, of waiting until the smoothest cream rises to the surface. These are great poems, to be read over, left aside, taken on holiday. I am deeply jealous of more than one of them. Congratulations also to Arlen for doing such a marvellous production job. Poetry, according to Cotter, is much more than skin-deep.”

-Kiosque May 2008


The best of Cotter's writing is solid poetry, intensely imagist, and speaks deeply and sincerely to real and universal human concerns.
In a poem called "Such Things Do Happen," he sketches people as glimpsed on passing trains in an intense second-person narrative. As trains come and go, so the passengers live in parallel but divorced lives. At a fleeting station break, "a solitary woman / of definitive beauty" shares an intimate, sympathetic gaze with "you." Then gone, the transient trains resume their lonely courses, and the transcendence shared for a moment is lost forever. This and other gems are subtle and beautiful chamber plays, rich vignettes scattered throughout the real world, which, as he eloquently puts it, are "operas, narratives we shall never know."

- World Literature Today May 2009





Irish bookstores can order Perplexed Skin from Argosy wholesalers.

American bookstores can order from Longleaf Services distributors.

Canadian bookstores can order from UTP Distribution.