Shy Green Fields by Hugh Behm-Steinberg
(No Tell Books, Reston, VA, 2007)
The tendencies, the exactly how
I first became familiar with Hugh Behm-Steinberg by reading his Dusie chapbook, Book of Days, and then I read more of his poems in the online journal, Eoagh. HBS poems work because of their restraint— Shy Green Fields consist roughly of one hundred untitled seven line poems, each poem consisting of 3 couplets and one end line. While HBS has room to drift within each poem, due to the structure these poems remain contained and focused which plays to the strengths of the poems. They can be coy and playful while resisting the temptation to take a pun too far, or serious without being melodramatic. The sense of brevity gives these poems an immediacy and intimacy.
I leant this book to a friend of mine and he said it felt like the poet was sitting in the room with him reading, which is an apt description.
Grasps, pushes and swings into space like
forethought, or what is truly clear. That
thing they call the hammer, I want the
reverse, I want the second time, I want
the third. We were lost in the middle but
I had no trouble sleeping. I like your scent,
the tendencies, the exactly how.
HBS is a sensualist and he brings to our senses the lushness of the exterior and interior world— the physical and emotive. This poem plays with both the binaries of space:
It’s said cranes need lots of room. How
do they exist so far apart and stay together?
I couldn’t stand it, to not be able to see
your body, to not be part of you out of
some genetic modesty. I have trouble
staying asleep without you. I belong to
This could easily be Neruda writing to Matilda or think of how it echo’s Frank O’Hara’s having a coke with you sentiment! Finally this poem is what all of our daily valentines should strive for:
I love the looking, to see over, see giraffes,
to pet the giraffe from a platform, the sexuality
of feeding them, their long black tongues.
How enviable! The old one, the oldest one,
these luscious attachments, you are the way
the sweat of your hands taste. Full of salt
knowing. You are the sugar you carry inside you.
Shy Green Fields allows you to see the quiet, sensual, world anew seven lines at a time like a slow undulation of light falling, shifting, seeping, and retreating.
Steven Karl is the author of State(s) of Flux, a collaborative chapbook with the artist, Joseph Lappie, forthcoming from Peptic Robot Press. His poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Barrow Street, Vanitas, Zoland Anthology of Poetry, No Tell Motel, Eleven Eleven, Real Poetik, and others. His reviews have appeared in Cold Front Magazine, Sink Review, and LIT online. He lives in New York City and blogs about poetry, music, and daily etcs at stevenkarl.blogspot.com.