10 May 2016

Tuesday Poem: Kraken - now in the 2016 Rhysling Anthology

My poem "Kraken", below, which won second prize in the Interstellar Award for Speculative Poetry 2015, has now been included in the Science Fiction Poetry Association's 2016 Rhysling Anthology of the best science fiction, fantasy and horror poetry published in 2015. It's a fine-looking book and it's lovely to be in the company of many fine poets, not least Christina Sng and P. S. Cottier. My copy has recently arrived in the mail, and I'm looking forwards to reading the anthology.


Millennia of sunlight passed the Kraken by.
He slept where he had fallen, each molecule
bound up in water ice, kept safe by permafrost
or the pressure of the deep. Kraken lay
unmoved beneath the waves, deep in his dreams
of fire and air, while the ice sat heavy on the poles
and the clever, clever apes, fizzing with language,
trudged northwards out of Africa.

Unperturbed slept Kraken as the glaciers withdrew.
Lapping at their tongues came the clever apes,
furred, speared, striding on. Wintering in caves,
they met and mated with their slow-tongued cousins,
gaining their immunities, their thicker skins.
Tinder sparked to flame in the wolf-howled night,
each tribe protected in its ring of fire,
but Kraken took no notice of such things.

Light disturbed Kraken’s millennial dreams,
sunlight no longer reflected by protective ice
but slanting down into the depths, unchecked,
warming the shallow seas, permafrost
proving to be less than permanent. In his sleep,
Kraken rolled over, farted, belched. Siberia trembled,
craters forming where none had been, methane
bursting skyward across the Arctic night.

The clever apes looked, and shrugged, and looked away.
They had bigger fish to fry: death, war,
their endless clawing at the Earth for fuel. Kraken
had been banished from their world. He was a relic of myth,
terror of the Greenland Sea, muse to Tennyson,
John Wyndham antagonist, large-boned
inhabitant of green-screened Greek epics,
set free to give Perseus something to kill.

The old Norse knew his nature well. Hafgufa
they named him, sea steam: and so he rose,
bubbling up beneath the circumpolar seas,
so much methane rising to warm the skies
that it roused him more, the loop reinforcing,
unstoppable, his coils releasing, sea floor gaping open,
undersea landslides lashing crowded coasts with waves,
the clever apes at last obliged to pay attention —

but too late. The Kraken is awake.
Flares light the Arctic night to write his name.
His is the fire that heats the deep, that scours the land
clean of everything that flies and walks and crawls —
the few survivors, vainly fleeing south,
hearing his voice forever louder at their backs.
The Kraken roars, and as he roars
soon every trace of clever ape is burned away.

This poem refers to “The Kraken Wakes” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1830).

Credit note: This poem was published for the first time on the Interstellar Awards website on 12 June 2015, and has subsequently been published in the 2016 Rhysling Anthology, edited by Charles Christian (Science Fiction Poetry Association, 2016).

03 May 2016

Tuesday Poem: Steady State, by Hugh Isdale

The machines took over.
We devised them
To do
Then we retreated
Into sterile pornography,
And disappeared.

They are very efficient.
They do not discuss guilt,
Or souls.
They have turned the planet
Into a garden
That grows
Very well.

Credit note: "Steady State" by Hugh Isdale is previously unpublished and is reproduced here by permission of the author. My thanks to Mark Pirie for bringing Hugh's work to my attention.

Tim says: As well as his own poetry, Mark Pirie continues to be a very active promoter and historian of poetry - not least in bringing both new and neglected poets to light. With Niel Wright and Dr Michael O'Leary, he founded the Poetry Archive of New Zealand Aotearoa, which publishes Poetry Notes, and is also the publisher of broadsheet - Issue 17 of which has just been published.

Hugh Isdale is a Christchurch poet whose work is featured in in Poetry Notes, Summer 2016 (Volume 6, Issue 4) . When Mark and I co-edited Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand in 2009, we made a valiant - and I hope largely availing - effort to consider work by every published NZ science fiction poet we could find as well as some then-unpublished ones, but we knew there must have been poets we missed - so it's good to be able to publish this thought-provoking poem by Hugh.

In less good news, it was sad to hear of the death of poet Ruth Gilbert (1917-2016). There's a fine obituary for Ruth on the PANZA site, which details her long and distinguished career as a poet:

Chief among her works is The Luthier sequence first published by Reed in 1966, a remarkable work detailing the musical appreciation in her family between the poet and her father, a maker of violins. The sequence shared the Jessie Mackay Memorial Prize for 1968 with James K Baxter. Three times Gilbert won the award.

Her other works such as her Lazarus sequence from Lazarus and Other Poems(1949) were widely acclaimed in New Zealand poetry circles. She also wrote poetry on her experiences in New York and Western Samoa.
The PANZA site has Ruth's full obituary.