radio Crackling, Radio gone
The poems are marked by a guiding intelligence that, in turn, shows itself as both elegiac and playful. The worlds of horse barns and wings balance comfortably with garage doors and breakups as the syntax runs circles around the reader, fragments, and finally comes back together with a reexamination of, or revelation of, the self. This poet brings a sparkling consciousness to the page and an exciting new voice to American poetry.
– Library Journal
The poems in Olstein's Hayden Carruth Award–winning debut inhabit haunted interiors where "[g]arage doors open and close of their own volition," and landscapes where "everything blooms coldly" and "the sun shines through like a moon." Olstein constructs an almost impersonal, dreamlike atmosphere tinged with malaise, inertia and a sense that anything could happen but very little does. She is drawn to fluidity and transitional states; she is devoted to paradox, wonder and uncertainty... Vivid, arresting detail.
– Publisher’s Weekly
Olstein’s first book weaves its reader into a sensual and fibrous dreamscape inhabited by totem animals, somnambulist lovers hypnotic with longing, and symbols boldly acknowledged for their inherent duplicity: “Insert bird for sorrow,” her speaker insists. While the poems in this book often operate as sanctuary, the speaker’s signal turns siren, resulting in an eerie and emphatic alarm to alert us to the dangers of the conscious world. In “Parable of Grief,” Olstein scripts violence onto the mundane; after regarding “snow-splashed grass” from her window, she levels this startling assertion: “When a bomb explodes in a marketplace every shred / of body must be searched for—flesh of watermelon, / fingernail, heart, stone.”
Every so often a poet engages in a melancholic struggle with mortality, placing their poems as a stop-gap to death. When successful, the result is a powerful work transfixed with a force Lorca called duende. And though duende may be nearly impossible to define (most writers follow a “you’ll know it when you see it” path), Lisa Olstein has it in spades. Her first collection of poems Radio Crackling, Radio Gone is a tap dance on the precipice of loss; it ripples with quiet energy.
– Barnstorm Review
She suggests; we fill in. This is the strength and beauty of her writing: straddling meaning and mystery, the explicit and implicit. Her poems have been described as that place between dream life and waking, and they are, but are firmly grounded in vivid, understandable lines. . . Olstein places the mystical next to the mundane, bees next to bricklayers, purple finches next to garage doors, reason next to faith, chance near fate. She explodes theories of cause and effect and expands our notions of logic, symbolism, and the territory between dreams and waking experience.
– The Growler Poetry Review
Rural, but not pastoral, earthy but not rough-hewn, Lisa Olstein’s Radio Crackling, Radio Gone is a quietly inviting debut. The title is perfectly emblematic of Olstein’s stoic, declarative style (“across makeshift desks, we sit on a makeshift floor; / we prepare for almost nothing that might happen”), though a burst of radio static in so hushed a world as hers might be enough to bring the planes down out of the skies. At the very least it would spook the horses, animals which figure prominently in the poet’s imaginary, as well—apparently—as in her everyday life. The horse makes a suitable metaphor for this strong, graceful collection. Sometimes nervous, often restrained, occasionally playful, the energy that pulses in the veins of these poems is always palpable, like the heart’s beat when the breath is held. . . Each poem stands on its own, total and whole: an intricate, delicate little world.
– Coldfront Magazine