Thursday, July 2, 2009

Constance Stadler's Tinted Steam by David McLean (Book Review)

Constance Stadler's Tinted Steam
Reviewed by David McLean

This chapbook marks the return of Constance Stadler to the poetry world after a lengthy absence in academia. It makes a very impressive and linguistically phenomenally gifted return to the poetry world.

In the laughing house
strewn in the plum dappled
peach tricking meadow,

from “Welsh-flecked Romance” which is a perfect poem shows a Dylan Thomas style facility for adjectival use, and a true feeling for the beauty and placeability, the portability, of words that is the mark of an authentic poet.

“Isfahan” shows a knowledge of and sensitivity to Muslim history and culture that is unusual in a country which has a very dismal recent history of oppressing Islam. It lingers around the precincts of the name, “Isfahan” is one of many possible transliterations. It even quotes young Coleridge.

The atmosphere is captured in lines like

A solitary oud
plucked by
still warm
ornamented fingers
still warm
sings a sad
uncertain song
to the scarlet dying sun.

(The Last Arabian Night)

The atmosphere in this and some other poems is Oriental, but not one of Orientalism, the poem tastes genuine, the attributes are not just dragged in for effect.

Other poems are genuine and immediate in their emotional impact

I cannot reach up your legs

and pull out the death in you

and I cannot

hug it away.


There is a whole deal of linguistic precision here, very fetching lines like

I believe in the sky

Elongated rectangles

In mottled, motley hues.

And trapezoids of geese

Protracting necks to

Cry their course

Of Pythagorean perfection.

(World Geometry)

On the whole this chapbook represents a stunning run that takes us from Romanticism and the East to modernism and the postmodernism that (if we are to believe Lyotard) both precedes and succeeds modernism). Since Connie is now definitively back, i hope this is the race, because if it's just warming up then we're all totally outclassed when she starts running for real.

Author bio:

David McLean is Welsh but has lived in Sweden since 1987. He lives there on an island in the Stockholm archipelago with a woman, five selfish cats and a stupid dog. He has a BA in History from Oxford, and an unconnected MA in philosophy, much later, from Stockholm. Details of his available books, chapbooks, and over 850 poems in or forthcoming at 370 places online or in print over the last couple of years, are at his blog at Mourning Abortion. He never submits by snail mail since he has little money and since he loves, or at least doesn't have anything against, trees. Among things forthcoming is a chapbook called nobody wants to go to heaven but everybody wants to die from Poptritus Press in summer 2009 sometime. Early 2010 an anthology called laughing at funerals will be appearing with Epic Rites Publications, there's also a 50 poem chapbook from Epic Rites called hellbound which is on sale now. For Epic Rites he edits the chapbook series and the e-zines lines written w/ a razor and the thin edge of staring, as well as selecting work for the radio network.

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