From his introduction to the reissue, Ken Babstock celebrates Steven Heighton's poetry debut, Stalin's Carnival:
To employ that sly little descriptor, "early work," so often flags a creeping apology or caveat, as though we’d be well-advised to read with an eye to the binder marked "juvenilia." This simply is not the case here. Heighton’s enduring and consistent themes, and the tropes he employs to investigate them, are all here in force. Erotic and familial love, the body’s kinetic energies, a mature awareness of time’s designs on that body, history manifest in the present, violence, death, and our stubborn urge to sing in its shadow. Heighton seemed to be zeroing in on the eternal themes of lyric verse right out of the gate, yet his real sophistication shows its mark in how very many of these poems insist on embedding or naturalizing the heart’s concerns in a pulsing, tactile, dynamic context and frame. The poems are a picture of the world first—and within that recognizable theatre we watch the poem wrestle its devils to no clean decision.