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Archive for the ‘Speculative Poetry’ Category


Don’t know that I’ve blogged an F&SF mag before, and this will be a short blog, as there is only one poem in the current issue, “Spacemail Only,” by Ruth Berman, a fun poem, extending the idea of the post office into the future: “The new commemoratives are / For Spacemail only.” It is amusing to think how stamp collecting will be affected by interstellar mail. “The Post Office / Promises delivery within the century…” Ouch. Another little bit I really enjoyed: “They’ve issued / Many attractive sheets of sf writers…” Well, and when they do, I hope Ruth is one of those honored.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

P.S. My eBook of love poems, Against The Night, is available widely, including on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/AgainstTheNight

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Tales Of The Unanticipated came out with a new issue after several years on hiatus. I’m glad these poems got to see the light of day.

Ruth Berman gives us a fun poem, “Witches’ Checkout,” concerning all you may buy “At the Witches’ supermarket.” “enchanter’s nightshade, /poisonous mushrooms canned or dried…” the list goes on, as the poem features Berman’s dry, amusing tone. “Variety meats move fast.” And a fun ending.

October Avalonne contributes “Sleeping Beauty In Red Stilettos.” “In our dimly lit prison / we spin for them.” A reasonably creepy poem: “I weave / with bolts of skin, skeins of tresses…flirt with a golden tanned man…” that goes off in an unanticipated direction, as I suppose it should: “But sometimes / when she spins with me, / her long hair sweeps across my arm…”

F.J. Bergmann gives us a fun, complex poem, “Alpha Centauri,” that isn’t quite an abecedarian: “A peels an instrument panel from the wall…Shrieking, B hurls it to the floor.” The letters of the aphabet get mixed up, drift out and back in, and generally contribute to the fun.

The last poem I’ll discuss is Kristine Ong Muslim’s “Resurrection Of A Rag Doll,” another poem shading from sadness towards horror. “My button eyes itch / in their nonexistent sockets….Girls like me live much longer / when we cannot see.” Powerful.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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Jack O’Brien starts the festival of poetry in Asimov’s November issue with a rewrite of Shakespeare’s 116th Sonnet: “Let me not to the making of new minds / admit impediment.” Frankenstein as a man of rhyme. Fun to compare old poem versus new, see where O’Brien cribbed rhymes and phrases and turned them to his own nefarious purposes. Might be a good exercise to have students do such rewriting, except they would surely turn subversive. ;->

Bryan D. Dietrich also has fun with monsters in his poem, “The Monster” — “Does he contradict himself? Very well, / then…” Here the monster is running a kind of Walt Whitman-esque list of himself: “What makes him — / crafted from everything other — want another / other…?” I have to admit, Whitman’s containing multitudes is a great place from which to start concocting a monster.

Lou Ella Hickman’s narrator in “Creature Comforts” loses a rapid battle with something like fishes’ ick: “it soon / became like a scale from monstrous fish / drink more water I thought…” Made me smile.

Dominica Phetteplace thought to create a monster from parts of long ago in her “Neanderthal Frankenstein” “to grow up to become the other…” And does a subtly effective job of moving (more or less) from slant rhymes to true.

And good ol’ Bruce Boston flips that thought on its head by giving us “Marie Antoinette, 2125,” too short to quote but with a sentiment that all us book lovers will surely appreciate.

Lot of fun in this issue.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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In the February 2013 issue of Asimov’s (don’t know why they like to count a month ahead) Ruth Berman’s “How Many” is a fun little derivation from the phrase how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.  “Well, it depends. / Self expression, / Room for one’s plenty.”  Then she reviews what happens with two angels, all the different dances one might see in that case, then keeps increasing the number, eight, nine, reaching ten “Chagalling overhead / To make up the minyan, /The angel with the fiddle.”  Kind of a cerulean square dance, I guess.  ;->  I liked it.

Bruce Boston outdoes himself this month, with “Curse of the Procrustean’s Wife,” turning the old Greek Procrustean myth into a modern fable of emotional abuse.  “She was once a woman / of moderate size…with moderate / needs and desires.”  It develops in a compact, powerful manner: “the longer / she stays by his side, / as he delimits her needs and defines her…”  The abuse, of course, increases, and the result, at the end, is devastating.  A great poem.

Finally, Robert Frazier gives us “7:17 AM, June 30, 1908, Central Siberia,” which title gives the time and location of a meteor (?) striking the earth.  He distributes eyewitness quotes to lay the groundwork: “the sky split in two” “fire appeared high and wide” then discusses how investigators, decades later, could not find the spot, and speculate on why this might be: “‘no crate site revealed’ by the aerial survey of 1938.”  Meteor?  Spacecraft?  You be the judge.  Kind of an interesting review of what-ifs and what-might-bes.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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Talkin’ Bout Science


The January 2013 issue of Asimov’s has a couple of poems in it, both of which I enjoyed. Robert Borski gives us “Bikini Snow,” a meditation on the fallout from a nuclear explosion. “From the fungal cloud // of smoke // it drifts down…” I like the implication that nuclear bombs are a fungus in our world, and note the reference to the Bikini atoll, where the H-bomb was tested. The images are powerful – “torn // from the crystalline // heart // of matter…” And each of the stanzas is in the shape of a little mushroom cloud. An effective poem.

G.O. Clark contributes “Just Another Day in the Burbs.” It starts, “He wakes up // to find all his neighbors // are first generation holographs…” Now, in this poem, each stanza is in the shape of a lozenge. Pills to be downed to survive in this dystopian world, maybe? ;-> Clark has fun with the whole Stepford Wives trope: “his long-legged, blue-eyed…wife most likely a clone of the original…” And a marvelous ending line, especially apropos for any writer!  Great fun.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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Golden Poetry


In the December Asimov’s, Bruce Boston takes a shot at Utopia, with his “Golden People” poem. “If the world were Golden People // our eyes would sparkle // and our teeth would shine.” Excuse me if I don’t want to live there, though, for all the “High adventures” and “boffo conversations,” as Boston is too clever a poet to give us a world without a few depths, and some shadows lurking underneath. “and if we turned green // along the way, // as some gold // is wont to do…” A fun poem.

Karin L. Frank does “Flower Power,” a meditation on dinosaurs and their limitations: “Dinosaurs couldn’t stomach flowers…” as though dinosaurs were prudes, and flowers orgiastic: “aroused stamens // cavorting in the breeze…” but then she turns the poem to the thought of her own mortality: “I, too, already starved // will be blasted aside…” which also plays with a beauty metaphor.  A strong effort.

Robert Frazier finishes off the poetry in this issue with “Your Clone Returns Home,” which begins “Back from far star systems…” a tough, even chewy, phrase — try it. He brings in a hint of sorrow before the end: “as she cries to sleep upstairs // she wonders will she break new ground…” which line I admire for its compactness, as well. The emotion gives the poem depth, and a certain weight. Three good poems, always a treat.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

 

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Warning Science


Interesting poems in the most recent Asimov’s magazine this month.  Danny Adams gives us “Tornado Warning,” about a parent deceiving his children into believing that their flight into the fallout shelter to escape a nuclear holocaust is actually just avoiding a tornado.  A poem that could have been written any time in the last 50 years, and it might have been more resonant back in the day, but being a person who has hit the basement hundreds of times to avoid tornadoes, and who grew up during the Cold War, this still works fine for me.  “…turning the flash-burst // into lightning // transforming darkening skies…into a tornado warning”.  Pretty straightforward, no real flash in the language, but none really called for, either.  A solid effort.

W. Gregory Stewart gives us “Sub-Genre,” a meditation on the various types of punk fiction in the speculative world, and how they seem to be taking slices of the world back in time, but missing a generation each time: “”from punk comma cyber // to punk comma steam…”  One thing I definitely admire about this poem is his ability to deliver a complex idea in clear language.  “punque skips // some kind of conceptual generation // so…the next thing to come along // will NOT be // wind-powered, but rather horsedrawn, punk…”  Just a fun little poem, cycling back in time to the beginning, giving him a naturally powerful conclusion, which he handles as deftly as the rest.  Here the language does come into play, a sort of casual diction that plays up the humor of the piece, and draws us in with a smile.  Very nice.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

 

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