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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Short Poems of Merit from the 2020 Rhysling Award anthology

Mike Allen conjures some dark, wild imagery in “The Sacrifices” [Sycorax Journal].

Two light verses that work as speculative humor are David Clink’s “Steampunk Christmas” [Star*Line] and P S Cottier’s “[Aliens declutter]” [Scifaikuest]

Good lines from Deborah L. Davitt’s “The Journey” [Polu Texni: A Magazine of Many Arts] (reminiscent of C. L. Moore’s famous tale, “Shambleau”):

She found him on the shore, ship-wrecked, sea-wracked—
his eyes had lost their light...
her serpentine locks twined
around him, supple, sleek, and scaled.

Lamentable repetition: “Every love’s a journey into darkness”

Good lines from Robin Wyatt Dunn’s “Disassembly at auction” [Mobius: The Journal of
Social Change]

And a hallucinatory blue smear over the left retina
Chassis intact, with some bruising of the metal...

Gonads still functional
Brain missing.
Left leg is a total loss
Right, still has...

Good finale from Amelia Gorman’s “Alternate Galatea” [Liminality]:

 the base is strong and the paper
whispers and rustles in the wind

Vince Gotera’s “All-Father” [Dreams and Nightmares] is a nice tribute, clever with a morsel of wonder.

Good lines from Jessica J. Horowitz’s “Taking, Keeping” [Spectral Lit]:

When at last they took her tongue, she etched each letter
into the tips of her fingers, across her ribs,
in the hollow places behind her eyes.
She carved epics between the layers of her skin,
stitched verses into each sinew.

Juleigh Howard-Hobson’s “Area 51 Custodian Gets Coffee” [Star*Line] is the kind of poem you’d think would find its way into this type of anthology. Nice narrative fragment, nice little visceral shock at the end.

In “Goddamn These Minotaurs” Persephone Erin Hudson [paintbucket] displays voice and energy, but nothing yet to quote. Not quite there.

John Philip Johnson plays with bitter-sweet irony in “Mothsong” [Liquid Imagination] although no particularly striking lines. His “Fly” [Rattle] poem closed nicely.

Catherine Kyle’s “Seven Reasons to Have Hope for a Better Future. Number Five Will Really Get You!” [Quail Bell] has an ironic tone that works for it although the best thing is its fantastic title. It mixes Biblical apocalypse with common jokes about the latest generation’s penchants.

Kathleen A. Lawrence retells “Hansel and Gretel” [Star*Line] from the witch’s perspective in “The Nonpareils: As Told by the Woman in the Gingerbread House” to some advantage.

Mary Soon Lee tells some entertaining verse: “To Skeptics” [The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction] being the most effective.

Francine P. Lewis ["drag strip drag" in Eye to the Telescope] and Jeff Crandall [“Halsted IV” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction] had some impressively structured poems. Crandall’s being the more emotive due to the nature of Lewis’s tight structure, where the poem is reverses itself in two directions. Crandall is more loose with his redeploying “The House that Jack Built”—not forcing himself to repeat events each time, but uses that to create a sense of an inevitable outcome.

Sandra J. Lindow’s “Creation: Dark Matter Dating App” [Asimov’s] is a charming misinterpretation of a scientific sentence.

Nisa Malli’s “Abeona, Goddess of Outward Journeys, Pilots the Interstellar Ark” [Spectral Lit] has what could become a fascinating speculative examination, but it doesn’t feel quite there yet. I gather it’s a problematic A.I., but we need sharper details (same number of words, just sharper—not so much sharper images but the effect she wants).

Caroline Mao‘s “when my father reprograms my mother {” [Strange Horizons] is effective, even moving, but it never quite arrives.

“The Certainty of Seeing” by Michelle Muenzler [Polu Texni: A Magazine of Many Arts] captures a moment of revisiting an ailing patient (through a psychological time travel) although we aren’t given much context.

Jason O’Toole’s “Samsara” [The Scrib Arts Journal] suggests that reincarnation means you should give your kids cupcakes, which will benefit you somehow. I wanted this to work, but we need more dots to connect.

Uche Ogbuji’s “Kolanut or kola tree  Íjè [Kola Journey]” [FIYAH Literary Magazine] has interesting translations and cultural aspects. As a poem, it is at its strongest when it comes up with lovely strange descriptions; “no sick greengray” “a shovel breath” “toes spadeing the soil.” Some are simply strange ones: dialogue croaked and “She grimaces while replying:” The kolanut is kind of a totem that carries freight although it doesn’t quite get to that and could probably use more development. There’s a lot of bandying back and forth since a third (?) of the poem is in a different language. I decided to search and replace to see if that helped and notice that could have conveyed a different culture just by substituting “Until the dawn!” for goodnight. That way we’re not floundering for the primary sense of what’s happening (unless confusion is called for), but we are within this culture and should hear the phrases as the other native characters hear it. I know there are other hypotheses, but poetry has barriers enough. Let people enter the poem smoothly. Use cognates if you have them unless you mean to exclude (but then why a poem?) and I don’t think Uche Ogbuji means to do that, especially given the translations provided.

Christina Olson [from her prize-winning Rattle chapbook, The Last Mastadon] has some science poems that offer bright, little moments and occasionally nice structure, but the whole doesn’t quite click for me.

Terrie Leigh Relf hints in “Revisiting the origins of language” [Space & Time Magazine] (if one compares the title to the ending) that language was created as a poem to lost love, which is sweet.

“The Ghosts of Those” by Ron Riekki [Star*Line] is a non-speculative poem about PTSD in the aging with some word- rhythm (“emptied, struggling for words, for worlds, / for wars other than the faded wars, the fading wars,”) and fun word pairings (“in my farmhouse mind, strange-keeled, fog-queened,”), but again it’s not speculative.

WC Roberts captures an intriguing scenario and atmosphere in “Phobos and Deimos” [Chrome Bairn] but it needs more time percolating.

Marge Simon’s “The Snow Globe” [Polu Texni: A Magazine of Many Arts] captures a tender moment between lovers who only come alive when it's shaken. Through a confusion of pronouns, it sets up the boy to be the man inside—neat trick.

Christina Sng in “Styx” [Spectral Realms] admirably takes something should stir horror and turns it into something tender. Quite a feat.

“Three of Swords, King of Cups” by Ali Trotta [Fireside Fiction] presents an extended metaphor that mostly works although it might have be shortened to greater effect.

Jacqueline West discusses “Lady Macbeth’s Green Gown” [Liminality] in the 1888 play which “was sewn / all over with real green beetle wings.” What a beautiful found image.

Fran Wilde’s “The Unseen” [Fireside Fiction] talks about fog in a pleasant manner—better fare than most novelists. The best lines: “it takes the distance first, / that mountain we always said we’d climb” although it isn’t really speculative. Scientific? Maybe?

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