KERNPUNKT Press. 2019. 165 pages.
Reviewed by Cassia Hameline
Chelsea Biondolillo’s The Skinned Bird is a lyric and fragmented essay collection that explores the concepts of loss, leaving, and learning how to find one’s voice and place within the world. Her experimental essays collage her own words with those of others as well as photographs, ornithological details, and other ecological interventions that bring the personal and universal together. By playing with form, Biondolillo examines her own thoughts while also making room for her audience to do the same. Creating this space for readers is one of Biondolillo’s great gifts; her ability to reach each reader individually, helping them to find similarities between their own past and hers, is what makes this text stand out. She shows vulnerability in every essay and in doing so helps us all feel a little less alone as we recognize our own.
From a structural standpoint, The Skinned Bird is separated into four sections that mirror the stages of birdsong—Critical Learning Period, Silent Stage, Subsong, and Song Crystallization. By incorporating nature into her personal essays both in structure and content, Biondolillo opens the door—or window, perhaps—to the world outside one’s self. She recognizes herself in the world of birds and uses that connection to attempt to understand where she fits in life. Each section tackles a different era of the writer’s life, starting with young childhood and moving forward to the creation of her own family and home as an adult. Biondolillo finds ways to look at, understand, and find peace with her own history and