Charlatan, by Steven Laird


by Steven Laird


  • Spring 2005
  • ISBN 978-1-55380-022-4 (1-55380-022-2)
  • 6″ x 9″ Trade Paperback, 90 pages
  • Poetry

With a precise eye for form and a clear love for the tone and timbre of language, Steven Laird creates a profound and surreal sense of place and time, upending it all with brilliant irony. Running through this collection is a disturbing sense that even the clearest perceptions — shaped by habits of speech and thought — can be treacherous, and standing on the highest rocks is a perilous act of faith:

Walk the edge of the cliff — up here
Eighty-seven feet falling sheer to the sea
You are precarious, the cliff is sure —
You need to be exact now

Throughout, Steven Laird teases magic from the landscape (where clouds are “handwritten in loose cursive” and hills can be “read in translation”) in poetry with a strong, exuberant voice — a voice that only “comes to rest / in a tambourine’s emptiness.” Not even your guide can be trusted; this charlatan is no ordinary snake-oil salesman. He knows you need to name a thing before you can even see it, and his warning is clear — never confuse your desires with the real thing.

No ordinary trickster, Charlatan tempts readers to enter this created world, inviting repeated readings of a deceptively simple poetry. Intense, unsettling and, strangely enough, reassuring, Charlatan holds images and ideas that will linger long after the cover is closed.

“Like the charlatan, Steven Laird has more than a few tricks up his sleeve, seeking to heal the invisible wounds of soul and mind, binding our longing for a great spiritual knowing to the experience of our daily lives. Whether in raucous celebration or private communion, his poems work towards the creation of a world from the thin air of words.”
— Mark Callanan