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About this poet

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)

Air Rights

One way to think of it is
I require absence and you are
lifelong a room just left. Except
you bloom not empty half-light
but a stand of trees at the edge
of the meadow where my life
leaks out. Static is the soundtrack
of the cabbie’s dream but oh
how we love our troubadours,
sad acoustic boys and girls,
sunshine stuck in their throats. Some
days it takes all my concentration
not to pick the lettuce that lives
down the street. Then I wake
with tendrils between my fingers
and once again I’m feigning
innocence on the one hand,
aping grief on the other. See,
I would eat the lily from under
the frog, drink the river between
each strider’s wake. It’s my way
of feeling productive, of not
too terribly envying the swan
still as a figurine on her cloud mirror
until the trees go back to normal,
which is a kind of sleep instead of
clawing magnificent at the sky.

From Late Empire (Copper Canyon Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Lisa Olstein. Used with the permission of the author.

From Late Empire (Copper Canyon Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Lisa Olstein. Used with the permission of the author.

Lisa Olstein

Lisa Olstein

Lisa Olstein is the author of Little Stranger (Copper Canyon Press, 2013). She teaches at the University of Texas at Austin and lives in Austin.

by this poet

poem

The one right in front of me
on e-mail, a chain message
forwarded by my mother
on the first day of this new year.
She’s tangled in nets and lines
and there’s only one way to
get her out, she tells us
with her bathtub-sized eyes
one at a time because we
have to swim

poem

We bring the world to bed with us,
its weather, its moving maps,
and its wars. When the staff told
the grieving chimp, tomorrow
they’d bring her a baby, she understood
her baby, the one three years ago
whisked inexplicably away,
not any baby, which is what
they brought. Of

poem

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