Devoted equally to the long arc and the sharp fragment, Lisa Olstein’s fifth collection maps the lucid ache at the center of night where “darkness stands in / for light,” certain heartbreaks never end, and love dovetails with losing. Immersed in ode as much as elegy, Dream Apartment employs a dynamic range of forms. Prayer-like spells cascade down the page with precision and abandon. Arrow-shot elegies explore the shock of suicide and find echoes in other kinds of grief—individual and communal, animal and ecological, sudden and creeping. Agile narratives mirror the dazzling associative movement of unselfconscious thought, the dreaming mind, “bodiless memory.” Whether watching a stranger carry his dead dog out of a vet’s exam room or offering bouquets of peonies to night-foraging rabbits, Dream Apartment is propelled by the way poems, like dreams, unfold new dimensions of time and space. Casting their lines toward wish and repair, recognition and reckoning, these poems reveal how any meditation on loss is an exploration of love, promising that in “dreaming, something wakes.”
WAYS AND MEANS
A divine spark from an ocean of fire
lights up the vast night in you.
You’re dragging something—
the past? This pathway is open,
that pathway is closed.
Destiny, karma, contracts,
who knows, all of your lifetimes?
Go to the space behind your eyes
that has to do with winter.
Who knows all of your lifetimes?
There. There is your despair.
Bless it with the spark.
“A formal restlessness echoes the particularities of this mind at work. Olstein moves between haibuns, short-lined enjambments, and concrete poems shaped like arrows. Sonic riffs propel the collection: vessel morphs into vassal, plum meets plumb as sound shapes the mind’s momentum. Wit, word play, and tonal shifts abound.”—Rebecca Morgan Frank, Harriet Books, Poetry Foundation
“Elegiac for both self and species, Dream Apartment names, as a title, the overlapping and inter-animation of interior and exterior structures. Through brilliant enjambment, agile movement, textural acoustics, and rhythmic mastery, Olstein delivers a skilled yet deeply felt portrait of existential and ecological extinction, making the book an important marker of a shift from ‘weird’ to ‘worldly,’ from ‘ludic’ to ‘lucid.'” —Preposition Mag
“There is such an interesting shift in tone, rhythm, and effect through her evolution of lyric structures, one that allows for the larger shape of the collection to emerge out of shared purpose amid myriad structures. . . . Each shape and patter attends uniquely to the music of each line, offering a precise and dreamy effect through her examinations, and even negotiations, on how one lives or might live in the world.”—Rob McLennan’s Blog