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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)

Turned Back the Disaster Comes Back

Contrary, besieged, my self
makes me its accomplice.
I owe him, my mandatory proxy,
a borrowed happenstance,
a philosophy in place of me.
Welcome, difficult neighbor,
the patient, dying, announces,
for he is my neighbor, who
assigns the me in me eaten away.
Such is the new future no present
remembers: the fall of the regular
fall of the beat—the disaster
again. Speaking, we cause it
to appear, the gentlest want,
the same word crushed, feverish.
The disaster is beyond the pale.
Improper disaster, what have you
done? God no longer the neighbor
in this night spared. It is dark, disaster.
What a long way there is to go.

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

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,

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