cover image Dispatch from the Future

Dispatch from the Future

Leigh Stein. Melville House, $14.95 (132p) ISBN 978-1-61219-134-8

In the wake of an impressive debut novel, Stein (The Fallback Plan) delivers an equally adroit first poetry collection; a mix both giddy and anguished that incorporates elements from fairy tale, pop-culture, ancient myth, and choose-your-own-adventure books. These poems swing between the dull throb of disappointment and what she calls "hope's stubborn blindness." Throughout Stein portrays the tenuousness of this cultural moment, a perpetual disorientation: "Is one of the symptoms a feeling / like you've been here before? I have not / been to a place yet that was not somehow familiar." Two poems entitled "Revisionism" go a step further, highlighting the malleability of memory and how it's mutated to fit present psychic purposes. Stein's poems often contain brief, narrative episodes reported at the breathless speed of an excitable child, as in "Universalism" where we read, "One time I told this to a friend, but all she said / was, Is that the end of the story? Was that even a story?" Later in the collection, poems become less narrative, more akin to frenetic visions. In the titular series, Stein reminds readers that "life is only too short if you are having a good time." Readers of this book will have a good time indeed. (July)