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June 11th, 2014

11:56 pm: Russian Queen
The Toast has just published my poem "Meet and Marry a Gorgeous Russian Queen" (the one Rose Lemberg claims I read to harass her at WisCon 2012).

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August 23rd, 2013

08:25 pm: On a Brighter Side
... with scattered clouds. I'm back from Boston and National Poetry Slam, where I got to hang out not only with my fabulous Urban Spoken Word teammates, Brittany Crosby (who got me airline tickets!), Caitlin McGahan, and Tony Fudge, but also a few SFPA and VP folks. Disclaimer: We, and I in particular, did very badly (that is to say, last) in our two official bouts, but we got to do the haiku slam, the masquerade slam (where we introduced the concept of the Group Piece Persona Poem — the personas being Edward Snowden, Aaron Swartz, Julian Assange, and Bradley Manning), the horrible-poetry cover slam, and the loser slam, where Brittany and I rocked. And we got to attend the semifinals and finals with no attendant pressure to keep us from relaxing. I picked up some horrible bug in the airport, so catching up with the backlog from the trip has been particularly onerous.

But, on the sunniest side of all, my chapbook Out of the Black Forest (Centennial Press, 2012), won the SFPA Elgin Award! I can't help feeling that Kelli Hoppmann's gorgeous illustrations for each poem helped a lot.

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July 13th, 2013

11:24 pm: Good Intentions Pave, Widen, and Add a SpeedPass Lane to the Road to Hell
I'm F.J. Bergmann. This post is a response to accusations made against me that can be read at storify.com/foxvertebrae/fj-bergmann and rose-lemberg.livejournal.com/354919.html. You cannot imagine how non-delightful it is to discover that people you don't know are calling you "the worst fucking person" and "a shitty person in so very many ways!" for reasons that are untrue.

I do not hate any of the people Rose names, nor do I hate Rose herself, though I find her propensity for misunderstanding me regrettable. My involvement in the incidents referred to at these links consists of 1) calling for due process on behalf of a friend whom I thought worth defending; 2) participating in good faith in an ostensibly open speculative poetry event; and 3) becoming impatient with what I saw as an attempt to impute motives and meaning to a poem that I felt it transparently did not contain.

I normally don't spend time perusing other people's blogs, so I am often late to the party. I was not aware of the appalling comments linked above--or that there were people who disliked me this much--until two days ago, as a result of fallout from comments here: jimchines.com/2013/06/how-to-report-sexual-harassment-by-elise-matthesen/ (I found out about the Hines blog via Ansible).

I have spent the last two days composing a considered response. I'd like to take the incidents in which my involvement is discussed in reverse chronological order:

1) Most recently, I was extremely uncomfortable with the comments made on Jim C. Hine's blog after the posting of Elise Matthesen's "How to Report Sexual Harassment" there. I posted there for the purpose of a) calling for due process; b) providing first-hand, long-term knowledge of Jim Frenkel, the supposed perpetrator; and c) to raise the possibility that the incident had been misunderstood. It is now horribly easy to understand, in the wake of the shitstorm that descended upon me there, why almost no one who shared my views spoke out anywhere. I regret bringing up Elise's deafness (she uses the word "deaf," so I am respecting her choice, I hope); it did seem entirely relevant to the incident as it was described to me.


2) The Moment of Change anthology reading at the 2012 WisCon was billed as an open mike, and I came partly as an overture of solidarity with the publishing of the new anthology, as well as for an opportunity to read my poetry and listen to other speculative poets. I certainly did not come with any intention of "disrupting" the reading; I came to support it, as a fellow spec poet, and I hoped that it might show Rose and others that I bore them no ill-will over the "Green Reich" debacle (3).

The poem I read, "Meet and Marry a Gorgeous Russian Queen," was written in 2009. In May of 2009 I sent it to a critique group of local poets who include two University of Wisconsin professors emeritae as well as a former Wisconsin poet laureate. It was a persona poem in the voice of an ignorant, sleazy, dishonest, diseased loser who has ordered a Russian bride online--who is savvy enough to turn the tables on her predator. The title was taken directly from a spam subject line, variants of which I still get constantly, and was part of a series of poems I had started writing that used spam subject lines as titles. The bride in the poem is not meant to be shown as a victimizer; it is quite obvious that the women who are imported to the U.S. as brides to internet-met strangers are, in general, exploited and endangered, and that the scam Russian-or-other-foreign-national-bride spam is about as likely to involve actual Russian women as the huge-stash-of-$100-bills-in-Afghanistan e-mails are to originate from actual U.S. soldiers stationed there.

In February of 2012 I submitted the poem to Strange Horizons, where it was rejected in due course. The editor not only discussed the poem on Rose Lemberg's blog, but offered to provide a copy to interested parties. I am amazed that an editor of her stature would publicly comment on a specific submission under any circumstances, let alone offer to provide the poem to anyone else without the poet's permission. Is this in accordance with Strange Horizons staff ethics policy? As an editor, I would not dream of breaching someone's privacy or copyright in this manner. Moreover, the rejection I received appeared to view the poem in a rather different light than her more recent description--it suggested, in fact, that I try submitting it to Mythic Delirium, Goblin Fruit, or Stone Telling! It's quite possible that this recommendation, which arrived shortly before WisCon, influenced my choice of what poem to read.

I am utterly mystified by the interpretations posted by Rose and her friends--especially the portrayal of the poem as anti-Semitic. I will be happy to send the poem myself to anyone who e-mails me at demiurge@fibitz.com to request it, as long as the poem is not made public (I would prefer not to post the poem here as it is not yet published--and I still have hopes in that direction).

I had read this poem at many venues, including local open mikes and slams. I picked it to read because I thought it was more overtly feminist than most of my other speculative poems and because previous listeners had visibly enjoyed it. I generally try to make eye contact with the audience when I read, and I was surprised by the poem's unenthusiastic reception. My husband, who was present at the reading, informed me that there was a distinct unpleasant vibe in the room after I had read, which puzzled me.

I did not know that Rose Lemberg was Russian or an immigrant. Then she read after me and clearly indicated that she was of Russian heritage. At that point, I was worried that I might have unwittingly given offense. I asked one of the anthology contributors whom I know slightly and who was also present whether she thought there was a problem and what she thought I should do. I got the impression from her that she didn't think there was anything to worry about, so I decided not to attempt to explain myself at the time. I have since learned from her that this was not the case; she was very aware that Rose thought I was attacking her, but did not feel comfortable discussing the situation with me. I absolutely did not read that poem to offend or annoy Rose.


3) S.A. Kelly's poem "The Green Reich" appeared in Star*Line 34.2 in June 2011, while Marge Simon was the editor (I have permission from Marge to send a .pdf of the issue to anyone on request; e-mail me at demiurge@fibitz.com). Rose Lemberg insisted that Kelly, a former ally (see the early days of the Absolute Write speculative poetry forum) had written the poem as a deliberate attack on herself. I found this transparently fallacious and said so on the sfpanet listserv and on my LJ (scroll down). It finally transpired that the poem had been posted in an Absolute Write forum in 2009, and critiqued there by some of his accusers, who found no fault with it at that time, as documented here: sak6.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/my-response-to-mike-allen-regarding-the-green-reich/, and I thought that had definitively put an end to those allegations of harassment-via-poem from Rose.


Rose has now twice that I know of attributed deliberate malice, aimed at herself, to poems that demonstrably could not possibly have been intended that way. Let me reiterate here: "The Green Reich" was written in 2008, long before she and Scott Kelly had a parting of the ways. My poem, "Meet and Marry a Gorgeous Russian Queen," was written in 2009, long before I had ever, to the best of my knowledge, interacted with her in any capacity.


Regarding this year's (2013) WisCon: I went to the panel moderated by Shira Lipkin because I was interested in its topic, and like many in the audience, I asked questions and made what I thought were relevant comments. If I "derailed" the discussion in any way, this is news to me, nor did I have any intention of doing so. I would very much appreciate an explanation of anything I said that gave that effect.

I'm saddened to find out that the speculative poetry reading at this year's WisCon was deliberately structured for the purpose of excluding me. I'm glad that I did not know at the time; it would have spoiled my enjoyment of hearing the participating poets read. I was surprised not to be invited to participate in my capacity as editor of Star*Line, but I assumed that it was because neither Star*Line nor my own poetry has a specifically feminist emphasis.

I've been at WisCon every year for 14 years and love it (except for the norovirus episode). I have been on many panels over the years. I had always thought of it as a safe and welcoming place for everyone, including me. I have contacted safety@wiscon.info and offered to provide whatever information they request; I'm outraged at being labeled as a harasser and a "well-known bully."


To Rose: I don't hate you. I deplore your perception of me and my intentions. I'm astounded and grieved that you thought I deliberately harassed you. I am chagrined that you should have seen fit to forego WisCon on my account. WisCon is a wonderful experience and should be a safe place for anyone. I hope that you come to the next WisCon, and that you enjoy it. If you wish me to keep my distance from you, I'll respect that. If you would like to get together one on one--or one-on-[as many of your friends as you feel safe with]--I'd be happy to try to resolve our differences.

March 20th, 2013

11:03 am: Gender Bias in Publishing Redux
Most of this is a comment in response to the gender ratios for appearance in major literary publications posted earlier this month at VIDA: Women in Literary Arts.

I am the editor of Star*Line, the journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, and the poetry editor for Mobius: The Journal of Social Change. In Mobius, I publish approximately twice as many male contributors as female (judging by author name); in Star*Line, about three times as many men as women. For both, I receive twice as many submissions from men as from women.

I had calculated the ratios for Mobius a couple of years ago, on the occasion of yet another discussion of gender bias in publishing. It pleased me that I was publishing work in the same gender ratio as the submissions, because I felt that it supported: a) that the quality of work from both genders was equivalent; and b) that I was not exhibiting a gender bias. (Of course, it could also be plausibly inferred that: a] one gender's work is far superior to the other; and b] I do have a strong gender bias in the other direction.)

I should be less pleased to find that I am currently accepting a higher proportion of work from men for Star*Line compared to the submissions ratio. However, I don't consider myself to be favoring men; I consider myself to be favoring good poetry; i.e., poetry that meets my standards and tastes. There are all sorts of potential explanations for the Star*Line gender discrepancy; one possible explanation is that because a number of high-profile journals exist withing the speculative poetry genre that specifically promote women's issues and gender issues, female poets are submitting to those venues preferentially. (I welcome discussion regarding this phenomenon.)

A characteristic of male submitters: they form a higher percentage of the submissions because they submit more frequently than women—or, at least, are more frequently repeat submitters to the same venues. Persistence sometimes does pay; if a poet's work is close to publishable quality and multiple submissions are sent, there is a much greater likelihood of one piece appealing to an editor.

Politically, I support affirmative action. However, I do not believe that the concept is appropriately applied to publication. A student or employee lacking skills or experience because of societal inequities can be brought up to speed; a poem, once published, is not generally alterable (and while my editing is hands-on, I have no intention of rewriting inadequate or unsuitable submissions in a manner that exceeds the abilities of the poets themselves).

Based on my submissions statistics, which I believe to be the norm, I think the real issue is not what's being published. The important question raised is: why are women not submitting in the same numbers as men? Superficial interpretation of statistics like those on the VIDA site further discourage women from submitting. The statistics that need to be stressed are not the publication or staff ratios, but whether there is any difference between the submissions ratio and the acceptance ratio—and then, if there is a difference, to talk about why it exists. The most obvious way for women to get published more is to submit more. And I suspect that the same holds true for applicants to review and editorial positions.

As an editor, I welcome submissions from both genders to Star*Line and Mobius. At present, I publish as many poems as I can find that I like; if I begin to get more poems I like than I can publish, I will raise my standards. I will not change my acceptance policies, which are based solely on my own tastes and on suitability for the journal in question.

As a poet and writer, I can inform you that I am female—while my gender may not be immediately inferred from my byline, I take no extraordinary measures to conceal it. Also that, for the last several years, the acceptance rate for my poetry submissions has averaged over 50%—in many cases from paying markets. I have hundreds of published poems, have won numerous awards for my writing, and have had four chapbooks published by independent presses. No MFA; I got where I am by industriously reading, writing, performing and attending performances, and submitting—in that order of importance. I'm not trying to brag; I am saying, ladies, that this is doable. Nor do I submit, as a rule, to venues that claim to consider submissions from women preferentially—that practice, I believe, actively denigrates female writers when it is undertaken for the purported purpose of rectifying gender bias. From where I see it, the problem is that of motivating female writers to submit more, to be more persistent—and that involves taking risks.

October 30th, 2012

06:35 pm: Glee, etc.
I’ve won the 2012 Rannu Fund for Speculative Literature poetry award for my poem “Guests,” as well as an Honorable Mention for “Fairies vs. Robot Aliens.” Both these poems are currently unpublished—hint, hint, editors.

June 15th, 2012

09:46 am: Hiatus Goes Poof - My New SF E-Book
While lax in this arena of endeavor, I have been busy elsewhere. My new (and first) e-book, "Remember Me," was released today from Musa Publishing's Urania imprint (science fiction)! For 99¢, you can go buy it.

Disclaimer: I'm using the term "e-book" loosely. This is actually an e-short-story, but we do not call it that because "e-short-story" does not slip as gladsomely off the tongue. The link will give you enticements and an excerpt, so all I will say here is that it involves a planet orbiting an orange giant star (Aldebaran), an interstellar theater troupe, an alien hate crime, and violet wine.

December 19th, 2011

09:10 pm: What I Want for Xmas
A baby dragon. A tiny baby dragon. An adorable tiny baby dragon. An adorable tiny baby dragon with razor-like fangs and caustic, highly reactive urine. Which it can spray backwards.

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July 22nd, 2011

12:29 pm: 2008 Rhysling Anthology—Analysis the Second
Yes, it's been a long time since I began doing this. Reality intruded there, in all sorts of unpleasant ways, and I barely escaped with my life. While I enjoy analyzing my reactions to poems, I hope that their authors take these criticisms as pure, impersonal, intellectual fiddling-after-Rome-burns; they are not intended to be offensive.


“After Appomattox” by Holly Cooley

A fascinating anecdote, and one that drove me immediately to a fruitless perusal of Google and my historian friends to see if the story of reused photographic plates in gas masks could be true. It makes a difference; if true, this is a wonderful poem with a compelling premise, but not at all speculative; if the images of Civil War soldiers on WWI gas masks is an invention of the poet, even though perfectly plausible, it catapults us squarely into the realm of alternate history.


“The Cyburgs” by Constance Cooper

This perfect sonnet evokes disquieting shades of Second Life, and has a nasty little punchline. One of my favorites from this collection.


“Les Fantomes (29 August 2005)” by James S. Dorr

Disclaimer: I don't much care for poems in dialect. Furthermore, this one doesn't come across as authentic. I also feel that the poem is rather slight, and its Pollyanna-ish suggestion that “jazz/sounds cure” is a sick-making trivialization as a reaction to the hurricane's impact. Nor is the inclusion of the word “spooks” sufficient to qualify it as a horror poem. And, in a spirit of utter pedantry, the title should have been Les Fantômes.


“Virgin Dragon Birth” by Gary Every

While this is an account of an actual event, the title is such a classic melding of fantasy and mythic tropes that I am completely willing, in this case, to forgive its mundane origin. The idea of watching for the “three wise lizards” is hilarious!


“Loup garou” by Serena Fusek

I like this short poem, except for the first sentence (“The world/is shifting sand”), which is not only a cliché, but bears little relation to the rest of the poem, particularly since the basic theme is the consistency of the narrator as an enabler for the werewolf, “no matter who he rends.”


“Chaos Theory” by Jeannine Hall Gailey

A good poem but essentially a science poem, not a speculative poem. The title relates awkwardly to the rest of the poem; the father's stated obsession with order does not penetrate the rest of the poem, which centers on mutation and the consequences of withheld information.


“The Golden Age” by Lyn C.A. Gardner

An interjection on publishing layout here: while the entire anthology is marred by peculiar kerning (the spaces between letters within words), it is especially apparent in this poem. Back to the poem itself: it is reasonably well-rendered blank verse, and I want to like it, but I'm having trouble figuring out the underlying story. While clearly speculative, and obviously involving the manipulation of time or near-lightspeed flight (“holos of our grandchildren,/Already grown while we sit nine years hence”), the essential purpose of the trip and task are opaque.


“How to Hide in a Japanese Print” by Lila Garrott

I'd like this poem better with the first stanza, which introduces a Greek mythic reference to no purpose, omitted. That said, I find it otherwise entrancing, despite its speculative ambiguity. “Fear is a closed book” is my favorite line. The longer lines in the first and last stanzas seem peculiar.


“The Amateur Astronomer in Me” by Timothy Green

This is mundane science rather than science fiction, but I love the last lines:

There's nothing new up there.
All things take up space
but words. Even mystery

is something invented
not too long ago.


"Weightless" by K.S. Hardy

The transition from light-hearted to dark happens in an instant, like a cloud passing over. Some of the line breaks don't help the poem, but basically, it's lovely.


"The Night Silent" by Christopher Hivner

This is a cliché-ridden (except for Glenlivet replacing the expected Southern Comfort or mint julep) Southern gothic. On the other hand, kudzu is pretty scary—as global warming progresses, I may not be safe in Wisconsin for much longer.


"Cellwoman" by Deborah P Kolodji

Tight and funny! It makes me wonder what cell-phones accidentally dropped into toilets turn into (3 in our family so far). I'd like to think they implant themselves into albino alligators in the sewer system to create saurian cyborgs.

July 3rd, 2011

07:50 am: Fracasserie
In reference to the fracas anent the poem "The Green Reich," which appeared in the Science Fiction Poetry Association's Star*Line 34.2, THIS IS RIDICULOUS, YOU GUYS. The description of the judge in the poem is deliberately casting its net as wide as possible (ludicrously impossible, really)--specifically, I would think, to avoid being construed as pointing at anyone in particular. It's a silly poem about the not-so-far-fetched concept of a dog facing criminal charges for peeing and pooping--COME ON!

It's especially ironic that the subtext of the poem itself is overreaction, in a zero-tolerance sense. I consider myself far to the left of liberal, but will be the first to admit that the non-Dark Side has its own failings, and can be just as draconian in its zealotry. (QED.) To refuse to read a poet, or a journal, ever again because of an unsupported, reading-between-the-lines interpretation ... make no mistake, this is both close-minded and sick. Save your rage for important issues, for REAL racists, sexists, homophobes, and those who are actively harming humanity, instead of these repeated episodes of delusional fantasies over poetry trivia and calls for elementary-school clique-forming.

I am getting the strong impression that if it were up to some who have commented at http://time-shark.livejournal.com/493137.html and its sequel, publication of Animal Farm would have been blocked (certain individuals would doubtless have seen themselves as mocked, with far more reason), and George Orwell publicly disciplined and prevented from writing ever again. I'm fond of socialism myself (despite sharing Bierce's opinion of it) but I don't see any reason to give it, or any other position, status, or belief protection from satire. All ideologies have their flaws and failings, and deserve to have them pointed out and mocked. Yours, whoever you are, should not be immune.

Certainly poems with flaws and failings deserve to have them pointed out as well, but I am very disappointed at the way any discussion of a poem within the speculative community seems to instantly transform itself into an ad hominem attack on writers or editors, rather than the content of the poem itself. To my mind, there was a far more egregious example of ethnocultural insensitivity and just plain bad writing in a different poem in the last issue of Star*Line, but it would be idiotic of me to attribute these qualities to a deliberate attempt on the poet's part to offend a particular minority group.

Do we want a Star*Line editor whose cautious, safe choices are invariably so bland as to offend no one? Or are some of you hoping to have poets you have targeted as personal enemies permanently blacklisted by a Committee-to-be-formed for Un-Speculative Poetry Activities?

Yes, I'm saying nasty things. However, they are aimed at the unpleasant and unfair manner of discourse that has repeatedly arisen. Unlike some, I do not intend to pick up my marbles and go home. I intend to agitate until these witch-hunts stop happening.

I'm very interested in discussions about poetics and about the quality, content, and even propriety of effect of published poems on the listserv. I am NOT interested in seeing disproportionate and unjustified attacks on poets or editors, or deliberate misinterpretations of work as personal affronts. It's depressing to me that such an egregious set of circumstances is what stimulated me to post in my LJ again.

April 25th, 2010

06:40 pm: 2008 Rhysling Anthology—Analysis the First
I'm posting critiques of a three-year-old anthology in hopes that the current one will not be dissected publicly before the voting is done. Discussion of poems whilst in the midst of the voting process can be misinterpreted as attempts to influence votes inappropriately, and puts poets in the uncomfortable position of having to defend their own poems or those they nominated. So let's converse about those of former years instead—the sting should have worn off by now. I figure a dozen at a time will be about right.

Perhaps I'm a bit focused on the lack of attention to grammatical details that should have been caught at some point of the proofreading process. Imagine, if you will, that you are listening to a poem being read aloud, by a reader who mispronounces words, uses the wrong words, runs words together, inflects sentences incorrectly, and periodically hawks up boogers. The effect of reading typos, misspellings, absent italics and hyphens, and incorrect punctuation on the page is quite similar, in my opinion. Naturally, this doesn't apply to poems where the style is deliberately experimental.


"Be True” by Mary Alexandra Agner

This lovely poem, one of my favorites in this anthology, is a tribute as well as an address to Isaac Asimov's well-known fictional robotics expert Susan Calvin, who is betrayed by her own creation's desire not to see her harmed. There is a strong sense of rhythm, despite very loose adherence to meter. The central metaphor is fabulously expressed: “you laid down calmly on the tracks/and called out, singing, to the train.” My initial impression was that the POV changes awkwardly in the poem from second- to first-person; however, given Agner's widely apparent high-end writing skills, the first two lines of the following stanza are obviously in Calvin's voice and should have been italicized and preceded by a colon: “Don't save me. Let the wild metal men/kidnap me, blow up my trappings of humanity.” The failure to include italics, hyphens, and other typographic aids to literary precision has been regrettably widespread in the last three Rhysling anthologies and, frequently, the publications in which the poems first appeared. Omission of these conventions is not an editorial style; it is a serious impediment to reading comprehension and a great disservice to the poet who intended them to be used.


"The Marian Lee” by Mary Alexandra Agner

In the style of a traditional ballad, this wistful and tragic poem is somewhat generic, and undeveloped rather than mysterious. I could wish that the attention given to form were more rigorous; it frequently drifts away from scansion, losing meter more than rhyme. I imagine that it would be much more suitable for being set to music. The “murals with their glowing” which give Candleton (a much more suitable title—a nameless ship would have been far more poignant) its name are the most evocative image in the poem.

 

“Giving Back to the Muse” by Mike Allen

Lucky Mike gets to have italics in this punchy poem! Nice, violent personification of the deity we poets love to hate. “Your loins avalanche blood” is an especially graphic line, with the sexual overtones that add so much to a poem's impact.

 

“Dark Matter” by Rae Armantrout

I'm especially pleased when nominations occur from outside the genre markets (in this case, from the Colorado Review); it's a sign that at least some members have the broad range of literary interests that prevent stagnation and parochialism. A tentative but by no means certain interpretation of this poem would be disappointment with the difference between an idea and its execution: betrayal by one's own standards (although the Judas-kiss image is a heavy-handed cliché). As Leonardo da Vinci said, “The greatest tragedy in art is when theory outstrips performance.” But I'm most smitten with stanza 2, where the poet returns us shivering to the ancient idea of the night sky as a pierced dome: “Each one/is the inverse/shape of what's/missing.”

 

“Ice Palace” by Margaret Atwood

A weird and mightily attractive dream-vision of an ice hotel (yes, Virginia, there are ice hotels), combined with suggestions of the invisible servitors from “Beauty and the Beast” and other fairy tales “clean out the wad of hair/you left in the porcelain shower.” Free verse, with some lovely internal rhymes. And then it moves into darker territory: “Red petals on the floor./You hope they're petals,” and Bluebeard's chamber, “the one forbidden door,/the one inscribed//Staff Only,” which adds humor to the terror. She gets italics, too! Disclaimer: I believe I nominated this poem, and I'm still enamored of it.

 

“Eating Light” by F.J. Bergmann

Mine, disclaiming up front. It won and I'm proud of it and had fun writing the poem. Italics present in its original published form were omitted. The poem can be read here.

 

“The Crone Meets Her Son (on a battlefield)” by K.J. Bishop

I would have preferred this otherwise fine poem to have been simply titled “On a Battlefield.” The expectations of kinship and discovery set up by the major title are not met—nothing in the poem indicates a maternal or filial relationship, and the assumption that the presumed parentage will be eventually revealed keeps the reader from focusing on what the poem does contain: a surreal and color-filled excursion into the struggle in which art and memory continuously engage. The dialogue in the poem would have been easier to follow had it been set off by the use of italics or quotation marks, and the kerning (letter-spacing) is noticeably off.

 

“If We Had No Moon” by John Borneman

This elegant poem epitomizes the “what if” aspect of speculative work, and brings us back, tragically, to the mundane world at its close. The subtext, for me, is the escape from the vicissitudes of reality that SF&F has always represented. My favorite line: “watching you place my future back into its felt box.” The second stanza should probably have ended with a period rather than a comma, and I find the capitalization of “Moon” intrusive (as well as inconsistent).


“Mrs. McGregor” by Robert Borski

A funny take on Peter Rabbit, this persona poem in the title character's voice mixes up the distaff side of Potter's shadowy human villain with infidelity, impersonation of the Green Man, and bunny bestiality (although any speculation concerning the origins of Peter himself is absent). I had to Google “Beveren,” but it was worth it. The “your” in stanza 8, line 2, should have been “you're.”

 

“Beyond the Clouds of Paradise” by Bruce Boston

This poem is lyrical, but opaque. The first stanza appears to be a straightforward description of enjoying cloud-watching, but the second introduces entities that seem to be actual residents of a theological heaven. The third mentions “stratosphere” and has a few of these individuals falling off the edge; the fourth, where the quatrain structure is abandoned, tells us that they break when they hit—and then we're talking about no clouds at all in the fifth stanza, followed by pure, NASA-filtered starlight. I'm not sure where the poem wanted me to go. I got lost, somewhere between heaven and Earth.

 

“Reservations Suggested” by G.O. Clark

I had to reread the first stanza several times to figure out the syntax. While most of the commas here are not actively incorrect, a more pleasurable reading experience would have been obtained by judicious use of semicolons and parentheses. “Motel 6,” “Cloud City,” and “wish/you were here” should have been hyphenated. Nonetheless, an entertaining poem about ordinary vacation parameters superimposed upon SF tropes.

 

“Falling” by David Livingstone Clink

Again, punctuation quibbles, but otherwise this is an excellent prose poem, demonstrating admirably what differentiates a prose poem from flash fiction. Superficially a comparative memoir, the subtly jarring digressions into a view of a pure-SF future subsequently link us back to solid ground with the ordinariness of hospitals and graves (even though on the moon) and travelers returning home.



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