Lost Alphabet

Lost Alphabet

by Lisa Olstein
     
 

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“This poet brings a sparkling consciousness to the page and an exciting new voice to American poetry.”—Library Journal

“Most appealing is Olstein's sensitive, quietly pained and earnest tone, w hich, more than the unusual subject, is the real star of this book.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

In Lisa

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Overview

“This poet brings a sparkling consciousness to the page and an exciting new voice to American poetry.”—Library Journal

“Most appealing is Olstein's sensitive, quietly pained and earnest tone, w hich, more than the unusual subject, is the real star of this book.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

In Lisa Olstein’s daring new book, an unnamed lepidopterist—living in a hut on the edge of an unnamed village—is drawn ever deeper into the engrossing world of moths, light, and seeing. Structured as a naturalist’s notebook, the four-part sequence of prose poems create a layered pilgrimage into the consequences of intensive study, the trials of being an outsider, and the process of metamorphosis. In an interview, Olstein once said, “I don’t want poetry to limit itself to reflecting or recapitulating experience; I want it to be an experience.”

I have learned to peer at specimens through a small crack at the center of my fist. It’s a habit herders use for distance: vision is concentrated, the crude tunnel brings into focus whatever small expanse lies on the other side, something in the narrowing magnifies what remains. At the table, my hand tires of clenching, my left eye of closing, my right of its squint, but the effect: a blurred carpet of wing becomes a careful weave of eyelashes colored, curved, exquisitely laid . . .

Lisa Olstein is the author of the Hayden Carruth Award–winning volume Radio Crackling, Radio Gone. She earned her MFA from the University of Massachusetts and directs the Juniper Initiative for Literary Arts and Action in Amherst, Massachusetts.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this series of prose poems, a scientist cataloging specimens somewhere in the cold north reflects on the act of waiting, the beauty of light, and what's essential in life as revealed by his wild surroundings and the "horse people" with whom he shares them. Prose poems can seem disconnected and inert, but Olstein's beautiful and ambitious collection unfolds just as it should, telling us a story without sounding like a storybook.
Publishers Weekly

This second collection from Olstein is an impressive sequence of prose poems spoken in the voice of a lepidopterist engaged in isolated research on butterflies and moths near a village whose residents reluctantly embrace her presence. Flirting with fiction without quite unfurling a clear narrative, Olstein's speaker finds correlatives for her lonely if exploratory inner life in the insects-living and dead-she is studying: "I have long recognized kindness in the way they fly." She thinks about and longs for a companion named Ilya, whose advice she mulls over often ("It is customary to pray for sound health and good understanding. Ilya says to be more specific is unwise-it's a mistake to believe we know what we require"); eventually, he joins her in her work. Most appealing is Olstein's sensitive, quietly pained and earnest tone, which, more than the unusual subject, is the real star of this book. It's as if everything Olstein says gains dire importance: "I want nothing to end, not a single observation, despite longing for what remains unknown." (July)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781556593017
Publisher:
Copper Canyon Press
Publication date:
06/01/2009
Pages:
96
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.30(d)

Meet the Author


Lisa Olstein was born in 1972 and raised near Boston, Massachusetts. She earned a BA from Barnard and a MFA from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, undertaking additional studies at Harvard Divinity School. Her debut volume, Radio Crackling, Radio Gone, won the prestigious Hayden Carruth Award. She currently directs the Juniper Initiative for Literary Arts & Action in Amherst, Massachusetts.

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