The Elephant’s Child: New & Selected Poems 1978–2005 offers a generous retrospective from a poet whose passionate, straight-talking poems have been delighting readers for forty years. Orlen writes about what it means to be male in our time and culture, and does so with disarming charm, honesty, directness, and humor. Like the elephant’s child in the Kipling tale, he has an insatiable curiosity about everything: love and sex foremost, but also about the ways in which we understand or misunderstand one another, how we perceive race, class, and gender, how memory works, and how we struggle to make sense of our often overwhelming and confusing world.
“‘The playful parts,’ Steve Orlen has said of [Randall] Jarrell’s poetry, the poet to which Orlen’s work was been likened, ‘I found comforting; the severe parts I found revealing of human nature’—a comment no less revealing of Orlen’s own poetry in his sixth volume, The Elephant’s Child: New & Selected Poems 1978–2005, a deeply-felt and expressed collection whose subjects of family, masculinity, childhood, love and lust evoke our own stories of the miraculous and the sacred in what we can’t, or won’t, admit: the taboo and unspoken desire to understand, as Orlen says, ‘how puzzling it is to be a human being in the world.'” —Review Revue
“Steady, supportive, gentle… Orlen’s enduring gifts extend well past his own work to the hearts of poets unfolding in the classroom.” —Kingdom Books Blog
“The deep meaning of all storytelling underlies Steve Orlen’s poetry. I want to call it a moral dimension. He does not tell us his tales merely to amuse us, although, like all good storytellers, he is the best of company. His poems are testimonies, songs of experience, which remind us we are not alone in the world. And there is magic in their telling.” —Mark Jarman