Fantastic verses: some collections of Speculative Poems

Hello again. 🙂

While I was having fun browsing various dealer tables and stalls at Worldcon in Chicago last year (Chicon7), I discovered some fine and intriguing collections  of poems among all the anthologies, novels and books about Speculative Fiction. I ended up buying four different collection of poems: two solo collections and two anthologies. I’ll give a brief overview of each book and, for the first three, a short note about the respective poets. The anthology has its own list of biographical notes and there are too many individual poets to reasonably cover in this post. Each book title will also show publisher/s and year of first or publication of  most recent/current edition.

Robot: poetry by Jason Christie (Edge, 2006&2007):  a collection of Science Fiction poems focussed on various features of robots, the possible nature of robot existence and troubled relations between robots and humans. This collection is full of intriguing and sometimes disturbing ideas and scenarios about what robots mean, have meant and could later mean to people and ‘each other’. For me, the overall feel of the poems is a bit closer to the darker stories of Ray Bradbury than to Asimov’s cheery confidence in the Laws of Robotics. Christie’s robots seem to have little patience for being held strictly accountable.

Robot is published by published by a Canadian firm: Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing, based in Calgary. Within the past decade, Jason Christie has been making a name for himself as an avant-garde Canadian poet.

The Animal Bridegroom, by Sandra Kasturi (Tightrope Books, 2007): Strongly inspired by myths, Northern-European folklore and many dark dreams at night, American-Canadian Sandra Kasturi’s first poetry collection offers some bizarre and beguiling tales in a variety of verse forms. There isn’t a single ‘title poem’ poem, as such, but from my reading the title was inspired by various themes that run through the collection. The poems are gathered in four sections, each with its own set of tales and imagery:  ‘Into the Woods’, then ‘Lying with Wolves’, on to ‘Spells and Enchantments’ and finally ‘The Unbinding’ of Spirits’.

Two of the stand-out poems for me are ‘Estonian Witches’ (p.22) in the first section and ‘Frankenstein’s Monster’s Wife’s Therapist is Happy'(p.64; after I heard the poet read this at one of the panel sessions I attended, I was ‘sold’ on getting a copy to take home) in the third section. For me, both these poems show a sly humour in the way Kasturi  presents her ideas and in how she plays with traditions and stereotypes about Witches and the mythology that has built up around Mary Shelley’s novel. I’ll also mention ‘The Birch Tree’ (p.20), for its sparse, clean and beautiful imagery.

The author note at the end includes: an impressive resume of awards and creative projects in a variety of media, founding member of a poetry workshop group, does work as an editor and publisher (Kelp Queen Press, based in Toronto) in addition to being a poet with a mix of Estonian and Sri Lankan family backgrounds.

Ancient Tales, Grand Deaths and Past Lives: a collection of speculative verse by Colleen Anderson (Kelp Queen Press, 2001): this collection ventures into and in between Fantasy and Science Fiction worlds in the poet’s exploration of  various human concerns in the contexts of mythical or non-Earth settings and various eras. This isn’t a comforting collection, by any stretch, but it does offer plenty of concepts and images well worth re-visiting and musing over with other readers as well as on your own.

As in Kasturi’s own collection described above, Anderson very effectively uses a variety of verse lengths and patterns to tell her stories and challenge readers’ sensitivities.  The moods I came across range from pensiveness to revulsion, with a fair bit of sombre reflection and regret along the way.    

The biographical note at the end of book includes: writing plays, doing Performance Poetry, workshop presenter at Clarion West, raising ‘slime creatures’, bookshop buyer and being the pet human for a cat called Figment.

The Stars As Seen from this Particular Angle of Night: an anthology of speculative verse, edited by Sandra Kasturi (Red Deer Press/Bakka, 2003):  at the stall where I found this book in the gigantic Dealers’ Room at Worldcon, this anthology quickly stood out as one that had a huge and fascinating  range of topics and poets, making it an ideal choice as a kind of survey of Canadian speculative poems. The Editor’s Foreward and a different poet’s Introduction give some interesting context for how the collection  was assembled, who is represented in it and why it can be considered a significant addition to Speculative poetry, especially (but not exclusively, as shown in the biographical notes at the end) written by Canadian poets.

A very brief look through the subjects of various poems written in an interesting variety of tones and using many different rhythms: imaginary cities; poetry likened to black holes; a personal look at the Shahrazad character as supreme and dangerous story-teller; a geometrical analogy applied to a troubled marriage; naming a starship; invisible geese and magicians’ tricks; spectral ships; android sex show; a witch meditates on her imminent burning.  Poem lengths range from a very short eight lines for Carolyn Clink’s super-compressed epic in ‘Stars’ (p.43) to several pages for Jason Taniguchi’s expansive prose-poem set, ‘The Genre in Brief (100-words stories)'(pp.81-86).  

I highly recommend all these books of Speculative Poems. 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Fantastic verses: some collections of Speculative Poems

    • Many thanks, Cherie, for visiting and for the kind words. 🙂 I’d totally forgotten how challenging and time-consuming a decent attempt at a review-type writing exercise can be, especially when covering various books and being very out of practise with reviewing.:)

      There have been some long gaps between my times of reading poetry too, and Speculative Poems in particular is also a more recent sub-genre of poetry that I’ve discovered, but now I’m really enjoying it. I’m very pleased my post on the four collections has appealed to you. 🙂
      Cheers, Tim

    • You’re very welcome, Jason. 🙂 Sorry about my delayed reply -I’ve been away from blogging for a lot longer than first anticipated.

      At Chicon7, I was very pleased to find various Speculative Poetry collections among the masses of novels (which so many people keep claiming are the be-all-and-end-all of publishing), story collections and comics, etc. 🙂
      All the best for your next book projects.
      Cheers, Tim

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