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Lisa Olstein

Lisa Olstein received a BA from Barnard College and an MFA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst

She is the author of Late Empire (Copper Canyon Press, 2017); Little Stranger (Copper Canyon Press, 2013), a Lannan Literary Selection; Lost Alphabet (Copper Canyon Press, 2009); and Radio Crackling, Radio Gone (Copper Canyon Press, 2006), winner of the Hayden Carruth Award. She is also the author of the chapbook The Resemblance of the Enzymes of Grasses to Those of Whales Is a Family Resemblance (Essay Press, 2016).

Of her work, C. D. Wright writes, “The poems appear straightforward to the eye, and then familiar to the ear. It is the content that jars. It is the quick, compact, exacting delivery that destabilizes the reading.”

Among her honors and awards are a Lannan Literary Residency, a Massachusetts Cultural Council fellowship, and a Pushcart Prize. A cofounder of the Juniper Initiative for Literary Arts & Action, Olstein is also the lyricist for the rock band Cold Satellite, an associate editor for Tupelo Quarterly, a contributing editor for jubilat, and an advisor for Bat City Review. She teaches in the New Writers Project and Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas and lives in Austin, Texas.


Bibliography

Late Empire (Copper Canyon Press, 2017)
Little Stranger (Copper Canyon Press, 2013)
Lost Alphabet (Copper Canyon Press, 2009)
Radio Crackling, Radio Gone (Copper Canyon Press, 2006)

By This Poet

9

[white spring]

I am working on a specimen so pale it is like staring at snow from the bow of a ship in fog. I lose track of things—articulation of wing, fineness of hair—as if the moth itself disappears, but remains as an emptiness before me. Or, from its bleakness, the subtlest distinctions suddenly increase: the slightest shade lighter in white begins to breathe with a starkness that’s arresting and the very idea of color terrifies. It has snowed and the evening is blue. The herders look like buoys, like waders the water has gotten too deep around. They’ll have to swim in to shore. Their horses are patient. They love to be led from their stalls. They love to sharpen their teeth on the gate. They will stand, knees locked, for hours.

Where the Use of Cannon Is Impractical

Stranger, mislaid love, I will
sleepwalk all night not girlish
but zombie-like, zombie-lite
through the streets in search of
your arms. Let’s meet at dawn
in the park to practice an ancient art
while people roll by in the latest
space-age gear blank as mirrors
above the procedure in the stainless
steel theaters where paper-gowned
we take ourselves to take ourselves
apart. Tap-tap-spark. So little blazes.
Cover the roofs with precision hooves.
Push back the forest like a blanket.
A bird the right color is invisible,
only movement catches the eye.
My most illustrious Lord, I know
how to remove water from moats
and how to make an infinite number
of bridges. Here we are at the palace.
Here we are in the dark, dark woods.

Run Every Race as if It’s Your Last

as you round the bend
keep the steel and mouse-skinned
rabbit front left center
and the track and the crowd
and its cries are a blurred ovation
as you stumble and recover
and then fully fall even if
only onto the rough gravel
of your inside mind or outside
in what is called the real world
as how many drunken grandfathers
holding little girls’ hands
and broken peanut shells go
swirling by why are you racing
what are you racing from
from what fixed arm does this
moth-eaten rabbit run
captive is different than stupid
near dead is different than dead
they call it a decoy but we know
a mirror when we see ourselves
lurch and dive for one