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Book Review: Jan Steckel’s “Like Flesh Covers Bone”

About the Book

Synopsis: A hundred pages of direct, uncompromising, and lyrical poetry filled with moving moments of intimacy, humor, love & loss.

Genre: Poetry

Date: December 2018

Publisher: Zeitgeist Press

ISBN: 978-1-940572-21-5

Purchase Link



I have been following Jan Steckel on social media for some time, so I was familiar with her poetry before reading Like Flesh Covers Bone. I’ve been delighted by many of her sharp observations of the world, sometimes optimistic and other times cynical. This new collection is one I am sure to read over and over, particularly a few of my favorites.

My top two are the titular poem, “Like Flesh Covers Bone,” and one called “Intersection.” In both cases, it is the way they reach into my soul and my personal experiences. The first knocked me emotionally flat the first time I read it. I gasped for breath, recalling my own first disillusionment as a newly graduated hospital nurse. The second had me nodding along with every line, feeling as though Steckel reached right into my heart and plucked out what was written there.

Every poem hits a high note, which is an accomplishment. Admittedly, I love poetry of all kinds, so I went into it with an already open mind. Even so, it’s rare that I am so drawn into the words that I don’t want to do anything except sit at the poet’s feet and bask in the beautiful lines. I couldn’t put it down.

I had the privilege of speaking with Steckel on the BiCast. I highly recommend listening and absorbing what she has to say about writing, life, and bisexuality. She reads a few of her poems, and it is a treasure to be able to hear them right from her lips.

There’s a little of everything in here: some relatable moments and feelings, political cynicism and activism, history lessons, heart-wrenching memories, and humor. What I always say with poetry is that not every verse is for every person, but in a collection everyone can find something. Reading through is worth it for every aha! moment, every instance of feeling seen and heard and understood.

And that, for me, is the heart of this book. As a writer, what I strive for is to create something that tells others, “You are not alone.” This is what Steckel has accomplished here, a work which reminds us that someone out there gets us, that what we feel is not wrong. These pages are like seeking a comforting hand in the dark and, once found, holding on for dear life. I challenge everyone reading to find themselves in at least one of the poems and meditate on the words.

Like Flesh Covers Bone is a book for any of the following people to enjoy: lovers of poetry; bisexual people; genderqueer and gender non-conforming people; readers who enjoy swearing in their poetry; anyone who would like to understand queerness better; humans.

For relatable moments, flashes of keen insight, and poetry at its finest, this gets 5/5 bi fives.

About the Author

Jan Steckel was a Harvard- and Yale-trained pediatrician who took care of Spanish-speaking children until chronic pain persuaded her to change professions to writer, poet and medical editor. She is an activist for bisexual and disability rights who lives in Oakland, California.

Her poetry book The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011) won a 2012 Lambda Literary Award. Her fiction chapbook Mixing Tracks (Gertrude Press, 2009) and poetry chapbook The Underwater Hospital (Zeitgeist Press, 2006) also won awards. Her creative writing has appeared in Scholastic Magazine, Yale Medicine, Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. Her work won the Goodreads Newsletter Poetry Contest, a Zeiser Grant for Women Artists, the Jewel by the Bay Poetry Competition, Triplopia’s Best of the Best competition, and three Pushcart nominations.

Social Media

Like Flesh Covers Bone FB page | Jan’s Facebook Author page | Website | Twitter | InstagramTumblr | Pinterest | Goodreads | BiCast Interview


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