I didn’t know what my next Out of My Comfort Zone post was going to be about. I have no time lately to read novels that aren’t ARCs – so full-length adult contemporary romance was out of the question, even though it’s a post I’m planning. I’m also currently writing my post about webcomics, but I’ll need some more time for that.
I wanted something even shorter, and then I remembered that… I never read poetry. And I really should try sometimes.
So, today I’m talking about short sci-fi and fantasy poetry I found and read on some of the sites that usually publish my favorite sci-fi and fantasy prose short fiction.
Why I Usually Don’t Read English Poetry
The “English” part is there because I have read a lot of old Italian poetry, because of school. I disliked most of it – I know you can’t see me now Carducci but really why are you still inflicted on young people today? And Foscolo, what did hoopoes ever do to hurt you? – but that’s what happens when you are forced to read something, I guess.
Anyway. The reason I rarely read English poetry is that I don’t follow a lot of people who read it, and the kind of poetry that gets really popular isn’t the kind that… speaks to me? With “the kind of poetry”, I mean personal collections about trauma and feminism. I have tried excerpts of some of the most popular ones in the past, felt nothing, and decided it just wasn’t my thing. Maybe I could find some collections I liked if I looked more into the genre, I don’t know. But I wanted to try something I’m more likely to enjoy right now, so… short SFF in verse.
[I’ve also had mixed experiences with poetry novels – I loved The Poet X and strongly disliked The Sisters of the Winter Wood – but I think those are another thing entirely.]
What I Read
When I noticed that there was free poetry written by one of my favorite short fiction authors ever on Uncanny Magazine, I knew I had to try it immediately. I’m talking about Cassandra Khaw, and I don’t know why I had never looked into whether she wrote poetry, because she’s the kind of writer whose prose feels like poetry. I wrote down parts of I Built This City For You instead of my notes during Latin because I couldn’t get them out of my head*.
A Letter from One Woman to Another – as I thought, her writing is perfect for this. The part between “I want to pretend” and “forward”? Wow. Why do some words, when put together in that order, with those line breaks, sound so well? This is about not settling down for mediocre men, by the way, which is a message I always appreciate.
I’m now also going to try authors I had never head of before:
hypothesis for apocalypse by Khairani Barokka – I’m not… sure what this is about, to be honest, but the imagery is creepy and it sounds nice when read aloud. I think it’s about agency and the lack of it, but I could be wrong. Interesting, in a good way, since you could read this (very short) poem in many different ways.
She by Heather Averhoff – this is so short, and yet… I can see it. A fractured poem for a shattered woman we see in pieces at the edges of our field of vision. Is this about a violent death? I’m not sure, but I could see it that way. It makes sense even though I’m not sure what that sense actually is. Which kind of seems to be a theme, but I don’t mind that?
Red Berries by Jennifer Crow – this one was lovely. Not only it had a perfect wintry atmosphere and imagery I loved (red berries against the snow?? gorgeous, ok) but it also had a vaguely monster romance feel. I could kind of see this as a scene in Deathless, if only it were darker.
A View From Inside of the Refrigerator by Andrea Tang – this is about the woman in the refrigerator trope. It makes up for being somewhat obvious (especially if you’re aware of the trope already and have read it about before) by being well-written, and that ending couldn’t have been better.
The Modern Girl’s Guide to Dating the Paranormal by Sophie Dresser – listen everything that has a paranormal romance feel to it is good. It doesn’t look like it would sound as good if read aloud as some of the poems I talked about before, but I love the content and the ending here is perfect (those last two lines… they mean a lot to me. I’m putting together a post about hauntings to talk specifically about that).
Will I Read More SFF Poetry In the Future?
I have gone through a good part of the Uncanny Magazine and Strange Horizons poetry archive, and I have to say that most of the ones I tried didn’t work for me at all, and I decided to not talk about them in my “what I read” section because I didn’t want to repeat many times “I didn’t get this and it also sounded awkward to me”. However, the ones that worked for me were great – especially the Cassandra Khaw one, but I saw that coming – so I’m interested to see what these two magazines will publish in the future.
Reading SFF poetry is exactly like reading SFF prose short fiction, except it’s even more cryptic and hard to get but it sounds even better (and you know that part of the reason I like short fiction so much is that sometimes the writing style is an experience itself, something that isn’t true for most novels). I also liked that it’s far more open to interpretation, and what I see might not be what you see at all. I think it’s the kind of thing that would be interesting to discuss with people – also because all of these take just a few minutes to read.
* Yes, this is 100% normal Acqua behavior, I don’t think I ever took notes for an hour without them turning in either song lyrics, pieces of books in another language, or spoonerisms. My notes always end up being useless but at least my hands have something to do?
Do you read poetry? If so, which kind(s) of poetry?