Thursday, July 13, 2017

Nicole Steinberg, Glass Actress


At weekend soirees I’m introduced
as the sole heiress to the endless,
malicious conclusion of my youth.
As my surrounding inner circle of
beards turn grey, I’ll still search
for anything I can paint hot pink,
for any boy or man I can laugh at
who still thinks seriously & often
about virginity as virtue. I can’t be
stopped & that’s what scares them.
My hair is thick & swingy like a pony’s
& yet I am always subtle. I eat up
their dreams like candy cigarettes,
only chewing long enough to suck
out all the flavor. I stuff their gangly
bodies into their own gym lockers.
They see me spill out into the school
hallways, frantic & laughing & think
they know me. I’m made of sapphire
from the waist down. My body surfs
a wave of oppression that tore down
the most resilient cities. The world
mutes me, I mute it back. No matter
where I go, I’m at the prom, sporting
a wrist corsage & quietly shattering.

Philadelphia poet Nicole Steinberg’s latest is the full-length collection Glass Actress (Philadelphia PA: Furniture Press Books, 2017), and it was her poem, above, “TEEN CULTURE IS THE CULTURE OF OPPRESSION / AND IT IS THE BEST” that convinced me that her work is worth paying attention to. Steinberg’s collection of first-person lyric narratives emerges after a small handful of chapbooks with presses such as dancing girl and Furniture Press, as well as a prior full-length poetry collection with Spooky Girlfriend. Glass Actress is whip-smart, jarring and occasionally hilarious, even if somewhat uneven, which is frustrating, given some of the strength of the poems included. As the poem above demonstrates, her poems exist with a lovely blend of vulnerability and swagger, inquiry, accuracy and a bit of flailing, writing out a narrator attempting to navigate through uncertainty entirely on her own terms, and being open to the limitations of her own experience. There is a lot going on in this collection, and I am intrigued; I would like to see more.

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