The Spirit Can Crest
In The Spirit Can Crest, Steven Riel’s second chapbook, we see this gay poet attempt to describe the process of losing his younger brother, David, to AIDS. From first learning of his brother’s diagnosis to confronting his own new identity as a survivor of the AIDS pandemic, Riel discovers both helplessness and strength, nearly silencing sadness and some nuggets of hope: “The spirit can crest as the body subsides. / Let me not have witnessed this in vain.”
Lessons gathered from this difficult experience echo throughout the book. Several poems trace the transformation of pre-diagnosis innocence into post-diagnosis experience. Using personas such as a caught fish and the character of Rosemary Woodhouse in the film Rosemary’s Baby, Riel maps the upending of innocence, asking, “Was Eden a lie?”
Readers familiar with Steven Riel’s first book, How to Dream, will recognize his ongoing work of exploring boyhood, gay identity, effeminacy, and camp, but The Spirit Can Crest is permeated by an additional sense of seriousness.
PUBLISHER: Amherst Writers & Artists Press
FORMAT: Paperback, 36 pages