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Posts published by “Goran”

Goran Lowie is an award-winning poet from rural Belgium. He writes poetry in his second language and is a high school teacher in his day job. You can follow him on Twitter @goranlowie.

Speculative Poetry Roundup – March/April 2023

Hello! Welcome to the first edition of my bi-monthly speculative poetry roundup. In this roundup, I will be highlighting some of my favorite speculative poetry being published in magazines today. There’s a great deal of fantastic SFF poetry getting published, but much of it goes underread.

Most of these poems became publicly available to read in March and April of 2023, besides Star*Line which is the official magazine of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association and can be individually purchased or subscribed to.

Without further ado, here are 30 of my favorite speculative poems of the past 3 months, from 16 different magazines, in no particular order.

Mycocosmos by Eva Papasoulioti in Eye to the Telescope 48

One of the many poems published on fungi in the 48th issue of Eye to the Telescope. This one reminded me of the fungi-infected remains in Annihilation (2018), only less horror: humans intermingling with mycelium, “spores in dialogue with our bodies”. An interesting interpretation of the theme.

Flesh of the Gods by L B Limbrey in Eye to the Telescope 48

Another poem I really liked in this issue of ETTT re-imagines fungi as the flesh of gods. It has a mythological feel to it, and it was a fun exercise to envision the civilization in which this story is told, where fungi dominates the environment and life.

Helen after Helen by Rasha Abdulhadi in Apparition Lit 22

Greek mythology meets Arabian Nights as two classic beauties are contrasted, showing the difference in how the storytellers look at each character. A refreshing poem that invites you to imagine both in a different way!

The Music of Birds in Exile by Ewa Gerald Onyebuchi in Uncanny Magazine

A beautifully enigmatic and heartfelt elegy of a mother. We are allowed a brief glance in the memories of a mourning boy, […]

Idemili by Somto Ihezue in Strange Horizons

I am always charmed by lesser known stories of international folklore. Idemili, Python of the Sea, a sea goddess of the Nnobi people, is the subject of this multi-language poem. In this poem, it’s a god you almost feel like you can touch.

Possession of the Farmer’s Son by J. Federle in Strange Horizons

Past turns to present turns to future in this story of possession by a slightly uncommon possessor, the fox. I loved its use of metaphors and the powerful ending. This poem does so many different things at the same time yet is very easy to read. So impressive!

In a country where history is only a memory that has grown older by Michael Imossan in Strange Horizons

A unique meta-poem that is also fragments of the script of a play, utilized to its fullest to tell a story both personal and political. An interesting concept executed very well!

Urban Legends of the Ohio River by Laura Grothaus in Strange Horizons

Ten connected “urban legends” relating to a river and its witch. I loved its sense of longing and the earnest message it tells.

Some Facts are Difficult to Discuss by M. E. Silverman in Strange Horizons

Silverman uses nebulae and stars to reflect on mortality and childhood in this poem that almost humanizes the cosmos. Delightful.

Tower of Owls by Nwuguru Chidiebere Sullivan in The Deadlands

The Deadlands has been publishing some very strong and varied poetry for a while now but this is one of my favorites of the past few issues. Beautiful imagery of owls in a body to ruminate on grief. I loved how effortless this poem seemed, yet so stunning.

Notes from the Far by Yuliia Vereta in Solarpunk Magazine

We get to read some notes from some robot on a distant planet who relates to us this strange world and the way it works- a different kind of civilization. It is subtly solarpunk, a peculiar story, essentially a robot’s retirement. Intrigued me.

Solar Punks by J. D. Harlock in The Dread Machine

“Forget fighting and forget forgiveness”– at once bitter and hopeful. I am not usually big on alliterative poetry, but it works quite well here. But then I have a penchant for radical poetry, which this is, yet managing to be quite “fun” as well.

Tale of the Beast by Anuja Mitra in Haven Speculative

One of two favorites in an especially strong issue of Haven Spec. This little feminist poem questions the male gaze via the perspective of a woman slash sorceress slash beast. The way people view you changes you, and you change them in turn.

Picture This by Monica Louzon in Haven Speculative

Louzon invites you to picture a conjuring water-based image of someone saying goodbye. Because sometimes, all you can do is say goodbye. Wonderful, hard-hitting feelings from this gentle message.

How to Rebloom after the Frost by Anna Madden in Orion’s Belt

A how-to-guide, telling you to follow the butterflies into something quite wonderful occurring in the trees of dawn. The more I read, the more I loved the language and the story of this poem.

A Dryad Reborn by Gerri Leen and Deborah D. Davitt in Frozen Wavelets 8

Very short yet packing a punch. A dryad is reborn, and there is magic in the act of beholding. Not a single word goes wasted here. Out of all the poems on this page, it may be the one I’ve re-read the most.

Coins for the Departed by Rasha Abdulhadi in Heartlines Spec

Heartlines Spec has been a very welcome new platform in the SFF market with an exceptionally strong debut issue. I adored all of the poems in this issue (which is rare for any magazine!) but this one captured my imagination the most. Abdulhadi beautifully manages to describe the feeling of heartbreak, of mourning a relationship, in a very well-realized metaphor.

The Qilin Visits the Zoo by Mary Soon Lee in Penumbric

Mary Soon Lee never misses and she beautifully manages to use this mythical creature to tell a slice-of-life story that seems like it’s right out of “The Sign of the Dragon”. By the end of this poem, I felt a real sense of empathy towards the visiting qilin, and I found myself wondering about its further adventures.

Beyondness by Lorraine Schein in Penumbric

Another short one but with some of my favorite lines, even out of context. There’s a surreality to it, abstract images of a mystical beyond.

How to Prepare a Mermaid’s Voice for Serving by Hayley Stone in Kaleidotrope

Another delightful how-to! It was a strong poem from the start and became masterful with the chef’s note. I’m not quite sure what makes this poem work so much for me, but I keep coming back to it. The structure of it, the theme, the execution– all excellently done.

Hands That Cannot Grasp by Daniel Ausema in Kaleidotrope

Ex-humans relate their story of transforming into something unknown, their experiences, motivations and thoughts. Paints a beautiful image from an unconventional perspective. So good!!

On the Shore by Denise Dumars in Abyss & Apex

A far-future story of a being who landed on a planet in hopes of finding a second home. Isolation, alienation, and desperation are key here. Reads like a farewell letter.

Interstellar Wildflower by Samuel Lowd Goldstein in The Future Fire

We have always been very egocentric in believing that aliens would naturally only care about humans if they were seek contact with Earth. Goldstein clearly disagrees and paints a very different picture in this one, re-contextualizing first contact.

Up in the Air by Ian Wiley in Star*Line 46.2

A terrific drabble of a presumed space traveler speaking some animals who refused to come with. Again, this one immediately became a scene playing out in my head. Ominous!

Feathered Eclipse of the Sun by Howard V. Hendrix in Star*Line 46.2

Another bird-related poem, this one instead giving a threatening feel. Clouds of birds, blocking out the sky. I was already sold by the title and enjoyed the poem itself.

Countup by Richard Magahiz in Star*Line 46.2

Again I’m finding trouble in describing what makes this poem work for me. It feels apocalyptic to me, then suddenly mystical, only to come back down to earth in an expected way. It intrigued me.

Requiescat in Pace by Jessica Peter in Star*Line 46.2

Another one that liked upon first read! It remains me of that often-reposted quote about every dead body on the Mount Everest once being a highly motivated person. People live their life to the fullest and then just… end. A stark and well-constructed reminder of our mortality.

Your Arms by Sarah Cannavo in Star*Line 46.2

This one is incredibly short, basically just a sentence, but beautifully told. Not much to say, it’s so short- just read it if you can!

Dispatches from the Dragon’s Den by Mary Soon Lee in Star*Line 46.2

I try to get my hands on every single poem Mary Soon Lee publishes, and this one feels like classic her. A simple and gentle tale that just delights you as you keep on reading. I got a real sense for the protagonist and the dragon he cares for. In the end, the last few lines re-contextualize the whole poem, bringing it all together very nicely, spotlighting a wonderful relationship between two beings.

Beautiful Malady

In the afterword, the author of BEAUTIFUL MALADY describes how Live-Action Roleplaying (LARPing) allows them to immerse themselves in a character without having to stick to their real-word persona. Yet, without talking about yourself, you are able to convey much of what you really want to say. This is immediately obvious in this book of poetry: Ennis Rook Bashe creates refreshing poems exploring disability and queerness. We are all familiar with those lazy tropes often found in literature centered on the disabled—suddenly they’re cured by modern medicine or even worse, magic/perseverance, it’s been in their head (and their fault) all along, and if it’s not showing the happy ending where someone’s disabilities suddenly go away, you may find a cautionary tale—pity these people, this is a lesson about acceptance/diversity/… okay there we go we’ve got our token disability character.

BEAUTIFUL MALADY examines these tropes and attacks them. In metaphors, in fairy tales, in odes and in unflinching criticism. Lyrical language abounds and creates images that resonate in their ability to capture pain, rage, triumph and resilience.

There’s a distinct voice noticeable throughout these largely unconnected poems. You get a feel of what Bashe wants to tell you, without them screaming it in your face. Sometimes you start reading about a cat hunting sunbeam, unsuspecting, until you are hit with what you really should have seen coming. Trauma turns into lessons learned turns into warning turns into determinations.

Let’s say maladies are flattering. Let’s banish illness as a failure of spirit and rejoice in the unspeakable stories being told. BEAUTIFUL MALADY will hold your hand and lead you along.

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

In the Lives of Puppets

Where UNDER THE WHISPERING DOOR felt very much the same type of story as THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA, this book felt different from the beginning. Perhaps it’s the sci-fi setting as opposed to the magical realist feel. Perhaps it’s the prevalence of (very middle school-feeling) humor mixed with the very adult themes and language. I don’t know. Something felt off from the beginning, and though it won me over enough to keep reading eventually, it never fully persuaded me.

If Cerulean Sea was a Pixar film, this is more a Spielberg—delightful, yes, but a bit overly sentimental and obviously trying to win the hearts of the Academy. Big themes sometimes very clunkily handled but you don’t mind it because of the charming characters. It creates a whimsical, Portal-esque vibe, but sometimes it felt like the tone didn’t match the story.

I think, in the end, I was most bothered by the plot. It felt like Klune focused so much on the characters and their banter that he forgot to actually develop the world and give the plot enough breathing room to develop in a natural way. It makes for a mixed bag of a book; fun yet a little grating at times, a heavy-handedness creeping in and only getting worse throughout. I actually believe it would’ve worked much better as a middle grade animated tv show. It certainly felt written that way.

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this in exchange for an honest review.

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When We Hold Each Other Up

When We Hold Each Other Up is a very fascinating take on pacifist resistance in a post-eco-apocalypse world. After the climate wars, people either live in cities run by Harmonizers (some strange more-than-human people who are able to “balance” the world by taking and giving calories, among other things) or in little solarpunk communities who try to live in balance with nature in their own little ways.

The story starts with Rowan, a young person lives in a small community when a Harmonizer arrives at their orchard and feeds on it, leaving ruin in his wake. Though the others are distrustful of him and leave him to die, Rowan decides to save him—because, like in the stories, we survive when we hold each other up. Truly, this is one of the core themes of the book, trying to find compromise and help those who may not seem the most deserving of it.

The Harmonizer is in fact a dissenter who has come to help them against other Harmonizers. The city seems to be going on the wrong path again, losing its balance, instead trying to mindlessly grow and destroy nature like the cities of old. Rowan and the Harmonizer must warn the nearby villages and see what they can do to help.

There’s more to it and it goes places I thought were quite interesting. There’s a big focus on the telling of stories and the way they help us understand and survive in this world. You’ll come to adore the two protagonists and their little communities. Above all, what I respected in this novella is the fully-realized, authentic feeling solarpunk wordbuilding. In most books, this either feels too forced or too vague. Take Becky Chambers’ Monk and Robot books, for example. They are books I love, but everyone calls them some of the great current solarpunk novellas while I always felt like solarpunk was only used as a background—here, it’s the very core.

If there’s one small nitpick, I thought the ending was very rushed. You have a story with perfect pacing, and suddenly it speeds up massively and conveniently wraps stuff up in a way that felt like there was much more story to tell. While I enjoyed the ending, I would’ve preferred to see a more fleshed out ending.

But I really liked this book. It had shades of the Earthseed books, for me. Phoebe Wagner has long been a prominent voice in the solarpunk community, and this book shows that. A voice to keep an eye on.

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.