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Catherine Byron's The Getting of Vellum is a narrow book of verse. I've read it over and over again over the last few months. The poems contained in the book were written largely in the late 1990s, and several of them circle around the poet's collaboration with calligrapher and artist Denis Brown, for which Byron received an Arts Council of England Writer's Award in 1997. Byron becomes hide-obsessed somewhere before the book begins, and returns to the idea throughout. It's unsettling to some ...more
The Getting of Vellum is both intriguing and disturbing. Divided into three parts, the middle section is perhaps the most thought-provoking. Byron offers a poetic rendition of the process of obtaining vellum and the importance of writing on skin. "Paper is flighty, easy to lose, / and it isn't always to hand. / You'll not, after all, mislay / your own skin -- will you?" she poses at the opening of the section. There is something deeply disturbing about writing on what used to be living flesh. ...more