Synopses & Reviews
Lisa Olstein's third collection reverberates with twinned realities: wonder and terror, beauty and difficulty, celebration and lament. Through encounters with science, war, art, animals, and motherhood, Little Stranger explores the exigencies of close attention, the tenuousness of attachment, and the ever more rapidly shifting nature of knowledge. Intimate lyrics, elegies, and narratives speak in voices familiar yet strange.
Lisa Olstein's debut collection of poetry, Radio Crackling, Radio Gone (Copper Canyon Press, 2006), won the Hayden Carruth Award, and her second volume, Lost Alphabet (Copper Canyon Press, 2009), was named a "Best Poetry Book of the Year" by Library Journal. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.
"Early in this third collection, Olstein (Lost Alphabet) announces: 'I am hopeful, and the hopeful seek/ the hopeless, a level always/ in need of rising.' This uncertain balance between hope and hopelessness, fear and fascination, breaks the calm surface of her poems. The book is broken into six sections with a breathing space partway through in the form of a poem constructed of letters to 'Sir,' then 'Sire' then 'Siren.' One of Olstein's longer pieces, 'I Saw a Brand New Look,' softly urges us 'to take occasionally/ a bird's-eye view, to see ourselves moving as if on sped-up film/ like ants through the colonies of their very long short-lives.' The poems are detached, numb at times, and often revert to instructional language to describe situations when instruction is completely ineffective. Olstein uses this inflection as a thin shield against life's urgency and bewildering circumstance: 'On a steamer it's always/ somebody's job to steer.' Yet fear peeks through the facade when she writes from the point of view of a rabbit with 'wise eyes': 'because prey runs, we learn not to run,/ not to turn our backs or look away/ from the predator we dread and long/ again to see because what we dread most/ is it seeing us without being seen,/ which is almost always the way.'" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
At once familiar and utterly strange, Little Stranger renders the world in delicate and essential balance.
About the Author
Lisa Olsteins debut collection of poetry Radio Crackling, Radio Gone (Copper Canyon, 2006) won the Hayden Carruth Award, and her second volume, Lost Alphabet (Copper Canyon, 2009), was named a Best Poetry Book of the Year” by Library Journal. After receiving her BA from Barnard College, Olstein lived in Greece and studied at Harvard Divinity School before deciding to pursue an MFA at University of Massachusetts Amherst. She currently serves as Associate Director of MFA program for Poets and Writers at University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she cofounded the Juniper Initiative for Literary Arts and Action and is a contributing editor at jubilat. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.