I was delighted to learn that the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) “has designated November 3rd as International Speculative Poetry Day to bring attention to the genre of poetry influenced by science fiction, fantasy, horror and other imaginative genres.” This is the first time it’s been held and I’m stoked.
In honor of International Speculative Poetry Day, here are a few of my favorite collections of speculative poetry.
Southern Cryptozoology has been twice nominated for the Elgin Award, which is no surprising to me because it’s one of my favorite poetry reads in the past few years. This collection presents a bestiary of strange, legendary creatures from the Southern parts of the U.S., examining what it means to be monster or human, beast or woman, myth or flesh. The lines are wildly spaces on the page, leaving gaps and holes where truths or secrets or double meanings might slip in. And I discover new things every time I pick up this book.
“A whole town: armed to the teeth,
arming themselves against my teeth.
She-cat of Bladenboro,
I’m here for your dogs,
your sheep, your sons, your blood.
You know who I am, boys.”
– from “The Beast of Bladenboro”
(wordpress likes to compress the spacing, but you canread the complete poem at Drunk Monkeys)
The Moment of Change: An Anthology of Feminist Speculative Poetry edited by Rose Lemberg
In this anthology, editor Rose Lemburg offers feminist speculative poetry from diverse perspectives. The quality and range of styles and stories these poems address make this a powerful collection of science fiction, myth, and folklore. (I did a longer review of this book in 2013.)
“Perfection is frictionless —
I need to stub my soul on yours,
I need to lick the slivers in your wounds.”
— from “In Defiance of Sleek-Armed Androids” by Lisa Bradley
“This is a story,
and it is true of all stories
that the sound when they slam shut
is like a key turning.”
— from “The Girl with Two Skins” by Catherynne M. Valente
Love in a Time of Robot Apocalypse by David Pérez
David Pérez uses speculative imagery in his poems to explore the ways things fall apart at the most intimate levels and how was can pull the pieces together from the chaos. There are poems in this book, like “Tickle Me Elmo on Black Friday,” that haunt me; I’ll be minding my own business and then wham, I’m thinking about them all over again.
Why bother saving us
when you have fewer scars from machines
than you do from the men who made them?
You don’t have to answer that.”
– from “To the Lady who Carves a Notch in Her M-16 for Every Robot She Leaves Charred and Perforated in the Ruins of Los Angeles”
(here’s a video of Pérez reading the poem)
Transformations by Anne Sexton
Anne Sexton’s Transformations presents retellings of classic fairy tales. The poems bring a unsettling, raw beauty to the original tales, while also being darkly humorous.
“No matter what life you lead
the virgin is a lovely number:
cheeks as fragile as cigarette paper,
arms and legs made of Limoges,
lips like Vin Du Rhône,
rolling her china-blue doll eyes
open and shut.”
— from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”
(read the whole poem)
God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant
God Went to Beauty School is a collection of YA poetry that envisions God trying out life on Earth. God goes shopping, gets a job, gets cable, explores all the mundanities of human life — and it’s deeply enchanting.
“He got into nails, of course,
because He’d always loved
hands were some of the best things
He’d ever done
– from the title poem “God Went to Beauty School”
(read the whole poem)