Sufficiency of the Actual

In this ambitious collection, Kevin Stein enters the volatile intersection of private lives and larger public history. In poems variously formal and experimental, improvisational and narrative, wisely silly and playfully forlorn, Stein renders the human carnival flexed across the tattooed bulk of “history’s bicep.”

Musical and refreshingly unaffected, Stein’s poems yoke the domains of high and low art. His poems address subjects by turns surprising, edgy, and humorous. They offer musings on the Slinky and the atomic bomb, elegies for a miscarried pregnancy and the late physicist Edward Teller, reflections on night-shift factory work and President Eisenhower’s golf caddy, and meditations on the politics of post-colonialism and a youthful antiwar streaking incident. Against this vivid backdrop parades a motley cast of American characters seeking wiry balance in a fragile world.


"Many of Kevin Stein's poems hinge personal to social history, opening the private to the public and examining what connects and disconnects us. It's as if he wants to reside where the self meets the group, and discover there some sense of responsibility, of causal involvement with the world. He uses the focused moment of poetry to show how one life can speak to the condition of a country, and asks that we look critically at our involvement in the society we have made. This is a compelling and large-minded book."

—Bob Hicok