Grim Series: Poems


Grim Series: Poems
By Kristine Ong Muslim
Published by Popcorn Press, 128 pages
Reviewed by Francesca Forrest
 
Kristine Ong Muslim’s grim series are six: Conrad (poems of a macabre family, especially the eponymous Conrad), Giger’s Tracts (in which tourists signal the cultural gulf between visitors and natives), Muir’s Horses (with similar themes of unequal interaction, fear, and xenophobia—but bonus beautiful horse imagery), Vengeful Villagers (village gossip and skeletons in the closet—dialed up to 11), Body Horror (pretty much what it says on the tin, but with themes of identity and loss mixed in), and my personal favorite, Strangers. Within each series, ideas, characters, and even phrasings recur, but at new angles and in new combinations, so we can explore them more fully.

The imagery is always breathtaking, startling, and the action usually violent, often gruesome. Consider “How Conrad Fell in Love,” in which Conrad’s family tries to dissuade him:

”Conrad, honey,” mother cooed. “Love is only for humans.
You are somwhere up there in the food chain.
And that girl’s hair has clogged our drain pipe.”
Conrad bowed his head, and I knew that he would think about her
tonight, how she had clawed at him when he lifted off his face
and how she had called him a “monster, monster, ugly beast.”
I would drag that girl into the kitchen tonight, keep her alive
for a while, make her understand what monster love was all about.

(The next poem is titled “Conrad and His Bride,” so we have an idea how successful Conrad’s family’s efforts were.) read more »

Cinderella Jump Rope Rhymes

Cinderella Jump Rope RhymesCinderella Jump Rope Rhymes
Multiple authors.
This is a Cabinet des Fées Production.
Published by Papaveria Press, 2012
27 pages.
Reviewed by Alexandra Seidel.

One might call this little book of jump rope rhymes a revival, but that would suggest that these childhood rhymes were — at some point — dead. Looking at the examples in this collection I find that very doubtful. With the originals still very present in the poets’ minds, Cinderella Jump Rope Rhymes presents itself as a string of re-imagined children’s poetry, going through a spectrum of lemon to flame in the process. The poets involved didn’t just bring a rainbow arsenal of crayons to the table however, they also added a pinch of wickedness, something dark, something mean, and something silly; the result is really quite enjoyable. read more »

Fairy Tales for Writers

Fairy Tales for WritersFairy Tales for Writers
by Lawrence Schimel
Published by A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2007
Reviewed by Alexandra Seidel

I absolutely love to see fairy tales of old develop new twists in the hands of new writers, I love to see these familiar stories re-invented and re-imagined so they can shine in a new light. Thus, when I got this title for review, I was very much excited about it. read more »

The Moment of Change

The Moment of Change
The Moment of Change: An Anthology of Feminist Speculative Poetry
Edited by Rose Lemberg
Published by Aqueduct Press, 174 pages
Reviewed by Francesca Forrest

The Moment of Change, a collection of feminist speculative poetry edited by Rose Lemberg, has already received much-deserved accolades, reviewed by Strange Horizons’ Brit Mandelo at Tor.com and by the speculative poet and short-story writer Rachel Swirsky at the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

It’s a stunning treasury of speculative poets, including several Rhysling Award winners and nominees, as well as prize-winners from the world of speculative fiction, including Ursula K. LeGuin, Jo Walton, and Greer Gilman. It offers a tremendous opportunity to get a taste of some of the best of speculative feminist poetry. read more »

Fairy Tales in Electri-City

Fairy Tales in Electri-City
by Francesca Lia Block
Published by A Midsummer Night’s Press, 78 pages
Reviewed by Amal El-Mohtar

Fairy Tales in Electri-City is Francesca Lia Block‘s third collection of poetry, and the first one I have read. I have thoroughly enjoyed her prose, especially in The Rose and the Beast, I Was a Teenage Fairy,  and the first couple of Weetzie Bat books, and was very excited to read her poetry; I figured that so brilliant a prose stylist, whose words are petals and fruit flesh on the page, must be something else again as a poet. I expected luminous images, sharp and startling lyricism, and, given the title, a focus on the magic of urban places, like a more fantastical instance of what David O’Meara did for Ottawa with The Vicinity.

This collection was not what I expected.

read more »

A Mayse-Bikhl

A Mayse-Bikhl
by Sonya Taaffe
Published by Papaveria Press, 32 pages
Reviewed by Erik Amundsen
Review originally published in Under Review, a special publication of Not One of Us, edited by John Benson

I once told Sonya Taaffe that, on the day she wrote a poem that didn’t move me; a wolf would eat the sun. Take a look outside if you want a spoiler alert for A Mayse-Bikhl. If you do not see the sun shining, that’s because it is night when you read this, and be most certain that the reflection staring in at you is you, and not a dybbuk, because in reading this collection, you stand a strong danger of being possessed. read more »

Stone Telling 7: Bridging

Stone Telling 7: Bridging
Edited by Rose Lemberg and Shweta Narayan
Reviewed by Erik Amundsen

Stone Telling’s seventh issue, called Bridging, has as its frontispiece, the painting of a horse and rider jumping a chasm, and for some reason, this image keeps coming back to me as I read the poems collected here. I almost wrote contained, but that seems like the worst possible word for the poems themselves and the purpose of this issue (as well as being generally wrong for the publication and its mission). read more »

Goblin Fruit: Winter 2012

Goblin Fruit: Winter 2012
Edited by Amal El-Mohtar and Jessica P. Wick
Reviewed by Erik Amundsen

The Goblins always have a tell, a way of showing you what to expect, both so that you can’t tell them you weren’t warned when they hit you with what they’ve got. This time, the tell comes from the art of guest artist Rose Lemberg (of Stone Telling); crones and owls, foxes and wolves, a listening child; for me, it conjured the carpenter weathervane on the porch of my granparents’ house, sawing away in a late winter rainstorm. That tell only got clearer in the note from the editors, full of the cold damp of Cornwall. I was set to let this issue sink into my bones and throb, more raw chill than ice and snow. read more »

inkscrawl 3

Inkscrawl, Issue 3inkscrawl, Issue 3
Edited by Samantha Henderson
Reviewed by Amal El-Mohtar

In June of 2011, I was delighted to note the appearance of inkscrawl , a poetry venue dedicated to speculative poems of ten lines or less. I was excited to see a speculative poetry venue about which I knew nothing, edited by someone (Mitchell Hart) with whom I am not the least bit familiar; I was pleased to see a venue focusing exclusively on very short work, feeling that here would be a collection of poetic aperitifs, bite-sized bundles of complexity to savour in a context that would show them to best possible effect. I think very short poetry tends to get, well, shorter shrift in publications that showcase longer work; certainly in publishing very short poems in Goblin Fruit, I sometimes feel like short poems are best deployed as a kind of thematic punctuation in the overall narrative of an issue. So I very much welcomed inkscrawl. read more »

Stone Telling Issue Six: Catalyst

Stone Telling 6Stone Telling Issue Six: Catalyst
Edited by Rose Lemberg and Shweta Narayan
Reviewed by Erik Amundsen

I am not an editor. When I attempt to understand the editorial mind, either in the service of reviews or in the throes of rejectomancy, I have to speculate. I know editors, I have worked with them, but I have always been on this side of the big desk, as it were. Sometimes when I try to know the editorial mind, I guess right. This time, I did not have to guess. I read the introduction for Stone Telling, Issue 6 last, and it confirmed everything I knew to be true from reading what Rose Lemberg and Shweta Narayan selected.
read more »