Steve Langan’s brilliant first book is full of passion suffused with irony, poems cagily built to deconstruct sentimentality by using self-consciousness as a kind of comic foil. But for all the poet’s clever feints and evasions, at the core of the work beats the heart of a romantic. Langan’s methods are luminously impressionistic, and the poems percolate with image and materiality, inflection and the full-throated music of language. Freezing glitters with the distant light (or explosions of inner light) of a hundred small moments colliding where perception meets the self in the “unbeautiful city.”
“There is something brave and unremitting in these beautifully realized testaments to the unbeautiful city, these dark hymns to the republic, the industrial heartland. I rejoice in this act of poetic warming, in the way Steve Langan has taken a landscape of emotional destitution and transformed it into the sure incantatory cadences of art.”
“After great pain, an informal feeling comes–and these funny, wise, casually urgent poems are here to bear witness. Here is a new voice out of the prairie–but its ancestors go way back to awe, to the beginning.”
“These are tough, gritty, and beautiful poems. Be aware of this, reader: Freezing will set you on fire!”
“Langan seems bent on rephrasing the blue-collar verities articulated most forcefully by Philip Levine, which means a constant struggle to transcend intellectual constraints imposed by a lower-middle-class lexicon and its sensibilities without sacrificing the streetwise vigor of his bleak Midwestern scene: ‘finding no light in the city’s shadows / no celestial light, no beacon, no portent.’ . . . Freezing is an impressive performance, both in many of its individual poems and its architectonics, its deft mingling of private and imagined other selves, if not always successful in communicating their tragic dimension or feminine alternatives. At several levels, it manifests the craft assurance of a gifted writer well aware of his and our human foibles and consequent anguish.”
—Edward Butcher, The American Book Review, July/August, 2002
Steve Langan graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he received the Paul Engle Postgraduate Fellowship from the James Michener Foundation. He is the author of Freezing (New Issues, 2001), Notes on Exile and Other Poems (Backwaters, 2005), and Meet Me at the Happy Bar (BlazeVOX [books], 2009). Langan serves on the teaching and residency faculty of the University of Nebraska MFA in Writing program.