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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)

This Is Our American America Here Is Our Son

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 course
she wouldn’t touch it. Of course
this lasted all day and into
the night and by morning
had been replaced by embrace.
Kinship is a gun set to stun,
circumstance a falcon striking
midair. Tonight I know the head
shot, I know the kneeling man.
If you know a face, how you know
a face is the way every part of it
works together when, still a person,
across a table a person laughs
on just another sunny day.

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

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

poem

Then I was a safe house
for the problem that chose me.
Like pure math, my results
were useless for industry:
not a clear constellation,
a scattered cluster, a bound
gap. When I looked I found
an explorer bent. Love

never dies a natural death.
It happens in a moment.

poem

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,