By Maria Elena B. Mahler
The Beauty of Curved Space
48 Poems / 83 pages
Glass Lyre Press
Stephen Linsteadt is a painter and a poet whose work is inspired by the archetypal feminine in both her physical form and her numinous overtones.
The Beauty of Curved Space, a collection of his poems, traces the curves, the joys, and challenges of painting along the inner landscapes of his struggles, dreams, and aspirations: a long and pleasant journey, a safari of untamed expectations.
Stephen’s muse is the voice of the archetypal feminine. Like Sophia, she calls from behind the veil of our everydayness, beckoning mankind to a path of self-discovery. She is always present in his studio and in his verse as he struggles to find himself below the surface of his intuitive pigment and his cerebral nature: Each line a new revelation/a mystic curve or splash.
Lines have a life,
a beginning and an end. They have joys and sorrows
in between. Like the line that contours a woman’s hip,
it tells us it is hip by its proportion and context.
The line speaks through its undulations of her many lovers,
her aspirations, disappointments, and regrets.
I am uniquely qualified to speak about Stephen’s work and his search for the feminine. I am his wife. I am his model, his muse, and the occasional interrupting voice in his studio. I am a witness to his search for wholeness. I am a witness of his realization that he could never have attained inner peace without embracing the feminine. My husband gives me hope that humanity will once again embrace, reconnect with, and honor the feminine that is necessary to our survival as a species. This ‘returning to the feminine’ is pervasive in Stephen’s painting and poetry.
I am not the only female to make this observation. Poet and editor Lois P. Jones, in her essay about Stephen’s painting in the anthology, Woman in Metaphor, says of Stephen’s work: “Woman symbolizes man’s continued magnetic pull toward creation on this earth and his struggle, perhaps, between free will and the tug of attraction. Here, beauty is not the permanent home of perfection but holds the power to turn the hunter inward.”
You press my cheek against your breast
where I lay and wait for the cunning huntress
to turn me inwards upon myself.
Jones further explains, “Linsteadt’s focus speaks to the larger alchemic metaphor of woman as an archetype of our ancestral experiences and the collective female psyche.” Stephen’s view is that our life’s experiences, disappointments, and difficulties are the alchemical and tempering fires that transmute and guide us to higher possibilities.
Poet Laureate of Ventura County Mary Kay Rummel says, “Linsteadt’s words describing painting also describe his poems. Tangible, painterly landscapes become journeys of the mind, moving from, to and towards mystery, haunted by the woman, human and divine, who slips out of paintings and into poems of the body and of the soul. This gifted poet’s voice is lyrical, both visionary and grounded, often dryly aphoristic.”
Poet Kate Kingston says, “Merging the artistic line with the poetic line, Linstead’s poems honor the female form while creating an awareness, a sixth sense, that resonates beyond the physical body. His voice takes us into the beauty of the line’s curve, its thickness and thinness, its sorrow and joy, its expectation and addiction.”
Stephen is a constant student of the cosmos, which can be felt in all of his pursuits often scattered about our home where we live under the baking sky of the Sonora Desert. The desert is Stephen’s landscape upon which he sheds his prejudices and from which his canvas takes him on mystery tours with the ‘unknown woman’ and her elusive world just beyond his grasp.
My soul is busy transferring material of the outside world
into the interior—
I can’t tell if I’m in the interior
floating on the essence of my life’s experiences
or drifting on what’s left over.
Other poems take us to umbral landscapes, like Van Gogh’s Saint-Rémy de Provence. A place where madness is the language: only warm iris blossoms understand.
the backdrop to “Starry Night”
painted close to where green bathed
the artist’s vision in a yellow
The scent of Languedoc
still warm about your neck.
Thunder uncoils over the night.
Rain on my umbrella
drops of deep mystery.
We once spent a few days in Saint-Rémy, where we fell madly in love with the scent of lavender, the persistent mist, and the olive groves Van Gogh painted. We walked on the pebbled paths around the asylum to the garden with the irises, the ones we imagined Van Gogh had contemplated from his bedroom window on the second floor. Like Van Gogh, Stephen’s poetry searches for an ungraspable light: Their light whispers/and won’t hold still. And: Admittedly Van Gogh never captured light/moving through cypress/But I can always count on the wind to blow.
As Stephen’s wife, I can attest to his dauntless pursuit of the feminine goddess and all the mysteries she holds.
Maria Elena B. Mahler is the author of the forthcoming bilingual collection of poetry Sweeping Fossils (Glass Lyre Press). Her poetry has been published in English and Spanish in Badlands, Saint Julian Press, Under the Radar (UK), Fredericksburg Literary Review, Fire Tetrahedron, and others. Her poetry has also been included in the anthologies Beyond the Lyric Moment (Tebot Bach 2014) and Poeming Pigeons (The Poetry Box 2015). She was a finalist in the 2011 San Francisco-based Primer Concurso de Poesía Latinoamericana en Español. In 2016, she was also a finalist in the annual competition by Bordersenses. Her poetry was selected for four Spanish anthologies published by El Centro de Estudios Poéticos in Madrid, Spain. Maria Elena has two fiction short stories published in Conclave (Balkan Press 2016) and Red Earth Review (2016). She was the editor of the poetry anthology Woman in Metaphor (NHH Press 2013). Maria Elena was raised in the South of Chile. After graduating with a degree in Communications, she lived and worked in Mexico and Canada, and currently resides in the Sonoran Desert of Southern California.