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The Short Life of the Five Minute Dancer

Wallenstein’s new book of poems develops an interesting voice in contemporary poetry. It is a voice that combines a street-wise vernacular with an unpretentiousness refreshingly uncommon these days. Additionally, many of these poems generally work less well on the page than the others, relying as they do on syncopated rhythms and simplicity. The collection is worthwhile for the poem “Mother,” which one hopes will find a place in the anthologies. Wallenstein is also quite effective in his narrative pieces like “The Teacher and the Prostitute,” where his distillation of reality rings true and echoes. Some of the poems strike this reader as too casual, almost tossed off, but even in these poems the quirky cleverness is interesting. This book is recommended for collections of contemporary American poetry.

The New York Quartelrly 
Foundation, 2012
Reviewed by 
Roy Robbins in Rattle

The Short Life of the Five Minute Dancer

I'm six hours absent all day long

like a weasel in winter in a tree,

deaf to the world:

I drift in the haze, latent, secretive,

absently waiting to dance and do

for five minutes at a time.

You, my doctor,

watch me last

for five minutes at a time.


Then watch me fade into

the six hour haze.

Sniff the way I breathe.

Deep in the haze I'm fine,

so fine in fact I'm fed through veins.


Now watch again closely:

I'm the dark speck drifting in the luminous sky,

the sudden recognition that all is not well,

the restive hour that spends the day,

the thing that will not scare


I burst out to dance

for five minutes.

I last the while in the grandest style,

you-- you watch me do

for five minutes at a time.

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