Friday, May 5, 2017



(Dos Madres Press, Loveland, OH, 2017)

One begins reading Olivia Stiffler’s HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT with “Manifesto” that starts with “I believe” and continues on to a series of beliefs. Its first belief—

“that kindness is more valuable than intelligence”

—is all good but it was the third belief—

“that we should drink the finest wine we can afford, alone or with others”

—that made me think there’s going to be some good stuff here. Granted, I love wine. But that line caught my attention because I thought it says something about—I initially thought to say “discriminating taste” but that may be hi-falutin’ (even if true) and so will say instead—keen observation and analytical skills. I was right.

Bearing in  mind the collection’s theme as presented in its title, HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT, the theme is explored by the poems in powerful, cutting and arresting ways. For examples, “CREATIVE PUNISHMENT,” SELF-PORTRAIT AS A PSYCHOPATH,” “ALTAR GIRL,” and  “BB Gun.” The latter ends with this stanza

You can put someone’s eye out with that,
our father, the supreme commander,
warns none too gently. I take a hard look
at his eyes and the space between. He has
no idea how good I am, that my BB’s
always land precisely where I aim.

The collection has depth, featuring many ways to explore its theme, which is to say, so many ways to be human. Here’s another moving example (click on all images to enlarge):

Its depth is also highlighted by poems that manage to be sly and funny—here’s one I really enjoyed:

Nonetheless, it wasn’t until I read “RUNNING WITH SHAME ON HER BIRTHDAY” that I realized what a fool I was to slight the first belief in her manifesto. Here’s the poem that likely will be the one I’ll remember most from the collection:

Great poems are great teachers. Stiffler and “RUNNING WITH SHAME ON HER BIRTHDAY” remind me of the importance of kindness—there’s not much more one can demand from poetry.



Eileen Tabios is the editor of Galatea ResurrectsHer 2017 poetry releases include two books, two booklets and six poetry chaps. Forthcoming later this fall is a new poetry collection, MANHATTAN: An Archaeology (Paloma Press). She does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor, but is pleased to direct you elsewhere where she was recently reviewed: Neil Leadbeater reviews her The Gilded Age of Kickstarters for Otoliths, May 1.  More info about her work at

No comments:

Post a Comment