Archive for Poetry

Poetry as Balm and Bomb


Words May Go by t. wagner

I’ve reviewed more poetry than I ever thought I would on this blog, but this is the first one without any genre connections.

t. wagner (Yeah, all lower-case. You got a problem with poets with lower-case names?) is a guy I’ve been reading for years and years. He specializes in short poetry, simple but focused like a laser, mostly dwelling on nature and romance. They’re far from flowery, though — stripped-down and spare, letting a minimum of words carry the weight of several paragraphs.

It still gets its way into your heart and your head, though, the way all great poetry is supposed to. It’s very much like someone pitching a brick wrapped in wildflowers through your living room window. It’s got incredible impact and beauty, with a serious punch and power.

Let’s have a quick example. This is wagner’s “Gas can seeks box of matches”:

Single gas can, half full
Seeks box of matches

Holds four gallons and
no illusions

Slightly weathered exterior
Belies volatile personality

Enjoys picnics, long walks and
Spontaneous combustion

Nonsmokers, though not preferred
Will be considered

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s full of great poetry, and it’s a fast read, too — but if you’re doing poetry right, you’d better be reading it slow.

I got another motive for reviewing and recommending this. Like I said, wagner’s a friend, and I’d love to see him sell a lot of books, because this book and his poetry really are phenomenal — but it ain’t real easy to order this book right now. It isn’t on Amazon yet, or any of the other online booksellers. Heck, people, you’re gonna have to write a check and put it in an envelope — but it’s worth it, I promise. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up.

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Superheroes in Verse


Flying Higher: An Anthology of Superhero Poetry, edited by Shira Lipkin and Michael Damian Thomas

This collection apparently sprang from a writing challenge among some friends to write poetry about superheroes, which is a sub-genre you don’t hear of very often. There’s horror poetry and science fiction poetry and all kinds of other poetry, but this is just about the first time I’ve ever heard of superhero poetry. I never even imagined such a thing could be, and I write about superheroes an awful lot.

So here we are — a collection of poetry about superheroes, some long and profound, some short and silly, some villanelles, some haiku, some limericks, some song parodies, some blank verse. We’ve got some that focus on established characters, and some that are about independent or generic heroes or villains.

I have a ton of favorites in this one, such as:

  • Erik Amundsen’s amazing “Said Gorilla Grodd, to God…” which posits the megalomaniacal gorilla decrying his failures to the almighty;
  • Lisa Bradley’s “Riveted,” about Rosie the Riveter and how her idealized image contrasted with the author’s life;
  • Torrey Stenmark’s “Pantone 032,” which ponders what might be the favorite color of the superhero;
  • Lisa Nohealani Morton’s “Supervillanelle,” which takes a look at a supervillain’s monologue through the lens of the villanelle;
  • Lynne M. Thomas’ untitled poem about Black Canary;
  • Emily Wagner’s “Invisible,” which lets Susan Richards vent about her powers and her life;
  • Michael Damian Thomas’s wonderful “Hawkguy,” which takes the current “Hawkeye” series as its inspiration;
  • Laura McCullough’s “The Scarlet Witch at Rest,” which takes a look at Wanda Maximoff’s private life;
  • Mike Allen’s “Darksein the Diabolic Plots His Comeback from Beyond the Grave,” which lets a supervillain rant about the indignity of being killed off for the sake of sales;
  • Stefan Krzywicki’s untitled poem focusing on life, death, and rebirth as a superhero;
  • John O’Connor’s “Rocket’s Red Glare,” about Rocket Raccoon;
  • Steven Marsh’s beautifully titled “You! I Thought You Were Dead!” about the joy of finding that one perfectly imperfect moment;
  • C.S.E. Cooney’s “Bless Us, Nellie Bly, Saint of the Secular Upstarts,” about the once-famous reporter who performed her own superhuman feats;
  • and Mary Anne Mohanraj’s “Princess of Gemworld,” which focuses on the secret tragedy of Amethyst’s existence.

And of course, plenty of others besides. I could almost list all of them, except then I’d just be listing the table of contents, and no one needs that.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I love the complete unexpected surprise of this. I really never considered the idea of writing poetry — serious poetry — about superheroes. It still seems like an odd idea, and I’m not sure I could ever manage to do it myself. But I’m glad all these poets managed to wrap their brains around the concept so well.

The variety of poems is very good, with serious works side by side with less serious ones, along with enthusiastic geekery, poets who are entirely ambivalent about superheroes, tributes to comics, films, and more than one real-life hero. There’s something here for everyone.

Oh, and did I maybe forget to mention that it’s free? Because the entire book is free. Trust me — it’s good enough for you to pay money for, so you definitely better pick it up when it won’t cost you a dime.

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Suspense and Sestinas

I’m in the mood to review something that’s not comics today. In fact, I’m gonna go as far in the opposite direction as I can. Tremble, ye dudes and dudettes, as I review… a book of poetry!

A Sea of Alone: Poems for Alfred Hitchcock, edited by Christopher Conlon

Yes, you read right — a book full of poems that have film director Alfred Hitchcock as their primary point of inspiration. How does that work? It works better than you might expect.

I’d actually had some trouble deciding whether I should review this here. On one hand, it’s a comic book blog, and Hitchcock didn’t have anything to do with comics. On the other hand, I also do plenty of writing about horror and associated genres, and some of Hitchcock’s best known films fit very easily into the horror genre. But what really put this decision over the top was this: it’s my freakin’ blog, and I can review any durn thing I want to, so there!

The book was published just last year and edited by Christopher Conlon. There are a pretty large number of poets who contributed poems to the volume — most probably unknown to you because, unfortunately, working as a poet these days is a good way to not get a lot of attention. Or payment, actually.

As you’d expect, the poems in this book cover a pretty wide range of topics, even if they’re all inspired by Hitch and his movies. There are quite a few that focus on Hitchcock’s life, particularly his less-than-happy childhood and his interests and obsessions as a filmmaker. You also get plenty that are all about the movies, with “Psycho” and “The Birds” probably getting the most attention, though “The 39 Steps” is quite close behind.

Of course, I’ve got plenty of favorites in this book. They include:

  • Steven Vernon’s “Leytonstone Lad,” which spotlights Hitchcock’s childhood;
  • Miles David Moore’s “Shadow of a Doubt: Charles Oakley’s Speech,” which takes a walk through the mind of the killer from one of Hitchcock’s best-loved films;
  • G.O. Clark’s “Alfred,” which pays tribute to Hitchcock’s film cameos;
  • Lyn Lifshin’s “Alma,” dedicated to the director’s long-suffering wife;
  • Lifshin’s “Think of a Woman Terrified by Birds, Caged,” a study of the trials Tippi Hedren endured on the “Birds” set;
  • Kathi Stafford’s “Double Feature at the Pecos Drive-In,” for anyone who remembers drive-in movies;
  • Richard A. Lupoff’s “At the Cosmic Saloon,” which gives Robert Bloch, Janet Leigh, and Anthony Perkins a chance to air their grievances;
  • Marge Simon’s “The Birds’ Lullaby,” a wonderful bit of nonsense verse that gives voice to a bunch of murderous birds;
  • Andrew J. Wilson’s “crop-duster,” almost more visual pun than poem, but the only work in the book to make me bust out with delighted, morbid laughter;
  • and Sydney Duncan’s “Sestina for Alfred Hitchcock” — mainly because I like reading people writing unusual structured poems like sestinas.

And of course, plenty of others besides. I feel like I’m shortchanging some really good poems by not talking about ’em here, but dangit, I can’t just list every poem in the book.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is a really fun book, a nice, easy read, though you ought to take a few days to read it, ’cause that’s the best way to read poetry. I enjoyed some of these poems a lot more than the rest, but there really wasn’t a single bad poem in the book. That’s a pretty good average, folks.

You’ve got poems long and short, complex and simple, dark and… more dark. It’s a good collection. I think Hitchcock would’ve liked it.

Go pick it up.

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Poetry of the Undead

It’s been a very busy month for zombies, what with DC’s “Blackest Night” and — well, I guess it’s mostly just “Blackest Night.” But still, it seems like a good time to hit a thematically-appropriate non-comics book review…


Zombie Haiku by Ryan Mecum

Published just last year by Ryan Mecum, a Presbyterian youth pastor in Cincinnati, the book is pretty much what you’d expect from the title — a bunch of 5-7-5 haikus about zombies. What makes this book so cool is its format — it’s told as a story, starting with an amateur poet writing cliched haiku in his writing notebook, advancing through the first day of the zombie apocalypse as our hero is bitten by a pack of zombies, dies, and rises from the dead with a taste for brains. Our poetic zombie ends up eating his way through his family home, a nursing home, a picked-clean city, several farmhouses, and an airport. And wrapped in among all the haikus are zombie polaroids, bloodstains, crude sketches of brains, and poems on torn paper “taped” into the book with duct tape. It’s beautifully illustrated, at least for those of us who love zombies.

Clearly, I couldn’t write a proper review of this book without including some samples of the haikus. So let’s start with our hero, still alive, on the run from the undead:

They surround the car
and are all moaning something.
Is that the word “trains”?!

In the early hours of his reanimation:

They are so lucky
that I cannot remember
how to use doorknobs.

In the process of eating everyone in the big city:

A man starts yelling
“When there’s no more room in Hell…”
but then we eat him.

And much later, during an assault on a farmhouse:

Nothing hurts me now.
Normally, the screwdriver
wouldn’t have gone there.

So basically: funny, gross, very imaginative, and messily drenched in modern zombie lore. And not too expensive either — the price tag on the cover is just ten bucks. Definitely a thumbs up from me.

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