2012 Poetry Recommendations by Editors: Romie Stott

At the end of last year, I approached a few editors of speculative poetry to recommend five “Best of…” poems of 2012. I asked that the five recommended poems would be written, edited and published by other people, rather than the editors themselves.

Today’s editor is Romie Stott, one of the three editors in the Strange Horizons poetry team.


Romie’s recommendations:

Sarcophagus (NE Taylor, inkscrawl) – accomplishes in 2 lines what it takes other poems 40 lines to not accomplish.

The Hunchback’s Mother (Sofia Samatar, inkscrawl) – Unsanitized. Sometimes making things halfway better makes them worse.

For A Kelpie (Ariel Johnson, Goblin Fruit) – The perfect distillation of “be careful what you wish for,” with a killer deadpan.

And now unto my calling… (Brendan Constantine, Abyss & Apex) – A compassionate poem that cuts to the heart of why we want magic, or want science to be magical.

Report From the Provinces (Wayne Miller, Boulevard – the link is to a reprint) – great blend of high and low technology, old and new civilizations; truly feels like an outpost.

If anybody wants to do further reading, Romie’s longlist (which is at least 50 poems) is here.

Poetry Recommendations by Editors – Samantha Henderson

At the end of last year, I approached a few editors of speculative poetry to recommend five “Best of…” poems of 2012. I asked that the five recommended poems would be written, edited and published by other people, rather than the editors themselves.

Today’s list has been contributed by Samantha Henderson, a speculative poet and writer who edits inkscrawl.

Samantha’s notes and recommendations:

These can’t be “best of,” because my reading 2012 didn’t even approach comprehensive; like many busy eaters of poems, I take at the table what I can and remember the particularly tasty. Looking over the list it strikes me that all these poems had an urgency of voice, a compelling need to tell something that attracted me.

In no particular order:

Thousands of Years Ago, I Made This String Skirt,” by Alex Dally MacFarlane (Stone Telling 8)

The voice-craft of this poem is stunning: the long-dead narrator, an archeological find, is made alive by the urgency of what she can say – at once angry, joyous, exultant, incredulous – if the reader listens instead of looks with a scholar’s limited eye. My bones remember me, she concludes, less defiant than simply aware that no matter the context in which she’s perceived, she simply is.

Skin Walker,” by Amanda Reck (Goblin Fruit, Spring 2012)

In Reck’s poem a scar – the wear and tear, but also the mapping of the body – becomes a path to the primal: a way of understanding the narrator as a beast (shapeshifter, werewolf, skin walker). Part of that understanding is, I feel, that the beast is a mask and a map in itself, that both disguises and points to the narrator’s willingness to devour experience:

Catch the moon,
if you can. I’ll snatch it back,
clad in this troll’s skin
and eat it like a hot, white heart.

Memphis Street Railway Co. v. Stratton: 1915,” by Elizabeth McClellan (New Myths, June 2012)

This poem spins an eldritch, dark tale from the bare bones of a hundred-year-old lawsuit:

There is only so long you can stare into a hole
in a darkening street before the mind wanders
to someplace abysmal

“A Tanaga,” by David Edwards (Astropoetica, Summer 2012)

I like good science and science fiction poetry; it’s sometimes hard to find (Sofia Samatar’s 2011 poem “Girl Hours” is wonderful example of crunchy science-y goodness ). It’s often especially hard in find in short form; too often I’m reminded of what Catherynne Valente once called “the Future/I mean/wow” poems. I liked this Tanaga’s clever focus on a simple but not intuitive scientific fact – the moon is always full – especially coupled with the accompanying photo of full, half, and crescent moons.

bell, book, candle,” by Gwynne Garfinkle (Strange Horizons, March 2012)

I like Garfinkle’s use of popular culture and wry tone in this melancholic take on making the choice to lose one’s magic (you even lose your cat), perhaps because it reminds me of watching Bewitched and wondering why Samantha would ever forgo her magic for mortal love.

Hacking update, and sales

Dear readers,

As some of you know, roselemberg.net has been hacked recently. I have finished unhacking it today, but the price of this is the loss of my previous website theme/design. I have installed a clean, but basic theme. This is a temporary situation before I settle on a more permanent new look for roselemberg.net, but meanwhile, please bear with me during this transition.

As for sales: as some of you already know, I recently sold two Jewish pieces.

“Lekoved a Strune” (In Honor of the String), a poem, will appear in the second issue of Through the Gate;
“Geddarien,” a short story, will be reprinted in the Journal of Unlikely Architecture.

2012 Poetry Recommendations by Editors – Alexa Seidel

At the end of last year, I approached a few editors of speculative poetry to recommend five “Best of…” poems of 2012. I asked that the five recommended poems would be written, edited and published by other people, rather than the editors themselves.

Today’s five picks are by Alexa Seidel, a speculative poet and writer who edits for Fantastique Unfettered and Niteblade.  Thank you, Alexa!


Alexa’s Recommendations:

* The Vigil by Mike Allen, Goblin Fruit Autumn 2012.

Mike does dark stuff really well, plus this is a horsewoman.

*Qasida of the Ferryman by Sofia Samatar, Goblin Fruit Winter 2012.

I do love a good rhyming poem, and this is a great one, mixing the here and elsewhere, something Sofia really knows how to do.

* Between the Mountain and the Moon  by Rose Lemberg, Strange Horizons.

It is beautiful, the language enchanting, and with every read, there is something new to be found between those lines.

* we come together, we fall apart by Lisa M. Bradley, Stone Telling 7.

There is a great story in this poem, and it pulls you into that story, doesn’t let you go until you’ve read it through, start to finish. And you won’t forget about it either.

* Thousands of Years Ago, I Made This String Skirt by Alex Dally MacFarlane, Stone Telling 8.

Because the string skirt feels so familiar.

2012 Poetry Recommendations by Editors – Amal El-Mohtar

At the end of last year, I approached a few editors of speculative poetry to recommend five “Best of…” poems of 2012. I asked that the five recommended poems would be written, edited and published by other people, rather than the editors themselves.

Today we continue the “Poetry recommendations by editors” series with five “Best of…” picks by Amal El-Mohtar – speculative poet, writer, and editor of Goblin Fruit. Thank you, Amal!


Amal’s recommendations

I chose these in no particular order of preference; I have no ranking for them.

* “The Clock-House” by Sonya Taaffe. First apeared in Stone Telling 7.

I doubt that I could be more eloquent than Sofia in reflecting on this poem. I chose it because for much of the year it rarely left my mind — certain images (the thin twist of wrists / like piano wire), certain turns of phrase, but mostly the fact of it being in the world. The fact that someone took Alan Turing’s life and connected the threads between Snow White and apples and milk and wrought this deeply mournful and loving and beautiful piece of art that feels like it must have always existed.

* “Snowbound in Hamadan,” by Sofia Samatar. First appeared in Stone Telling 8

Sofia has this brilliant way of beginning a poem conversationally and then shifting its cadences from plain speech to lyric, from lyric to spell. I hear this at work here, and love this poem for teaching me about things I did not know, in the way I would have been likely to learn about them: with awe, with sadness, with regret.

* “What the Dragon Said: A Love Story,” by Catherynne M. Valente. First appeared on Tor.com in April, 2012.
I think I loved this best of the poems Cat had up on Tor.com last year, during their Poetry Month. These lines in particular:

Don’t you ever feel
like you’re just
a story someone is telling
about someone like you?

They resonated and reverberated with me. Usually with Cat’s poems it’s the gem-sharp imagery that cuts into me, the inescapability of her lines, but in this one it’s the conversation wrought of truths that gets to me and wrings me out.

* “The Gardener,” by Sandi Leibowitz. First appeared in Mythic Delirium 27, published November 15, 2012.

Look, this poem is narrated by Ishtar and features the sucking of peaches. Obviously it is calculated to win my heart. But also lines like “the cracks worn in his roughened hands / like the bark of almond trees he planted” pluck strings in me. It is a poem that made me smell summer and fruit when I read it, and for that I loved it.

* “The Three Immigrations,” by Rose Lemberg. First appeared in Strange Horizons, November 26, 2012

This poem just devastated me with its skill, its structure, with its subject that is very close to my heart, with its language about language and living between languages. It left me in tears.

2012 Poetry Recommendations by Editors – Adrienne J. Odasso

At the end of last year, I approached a few editors of speculative poetry to recommend five “Best of…” poems of 2012. I asked that the five recommended poems would be written, edited and published by other people, rather than the editors themselves.

I am now happy to share the editors’ recommendations with you! We begin the series with Adrienne J. Odasso, a poet and co-editor of Strange Horizons and the Dark Mountain Project. Thank you, Adrienne!


Adrienne’s Recomendations:

1. “How to Undress a Mountain,” by Aditi Rao (qarrtsiluni, The Fragments Issue, Autumn 2012)

This piece of prose-poetry explores storytelling in the form of a metaphor I’m sure I’ll never forget. We take mountains for granted: as bucolic backdrops, as inhospitable landscapes, as statistics in geology textbooks. After reading this, you will never look at mountains—or at yourself—the same way again.

2. “Sister,” by Alex Dally MacFarlane (Through the Gate, Issue 1, September 2012)

Tales of fox-creatures and other similar shapeshifting beasties have become (at least it seems to me) more prevalent in the landscape of fantasy and speculative poetry in the past few years or so, almost to the point of being overdone. Not so with this piece, as uniquely spun themes of anger, grief, obsession, and familial love hum through its lines to a haunting and satisfying finish.

3. “In His Eighty-Second Year,” by Dominik Parisien (Stone Telling, The Queer Issue, March 2012)

This poem stands as an eloquent, melancholy, and spellbinding example of why we need more narratives about and from the perspectives of those who are older, wiser, and see the world from perspectives that many of us cannot.

4. “Sarcophagus,” by N. E. Taylor (inkscrawl, Issue 3, April 2012)

We have waited long enough for a magazine that celebrates poetry in its briefest, most incisive forms, and, thus far, inkscrawl has more than delivered. In this brief, biting gem, history, magic, and mortality come full circle in two elegant lines.

5. “Heart Rot,” by Amanda Reck (Goblin Fruit, Summer 2012 Issue)

Fairytale echoes fuse seamlessly with the difficult reality of losing a parent to terminal illness; leaves and bark, pages and spines (trees both living and dead) guide us through a wistful, lovely text documenting decay and rebirth. Amanda Reck is one to watch, as her poem called “Skin Walker,” (http://www.goblinfruit.net/2012/spring/poems/?poem=skinwalker) which appeared in the Spring 2012 Issue of Goblin Fruit, nearly also made my list.

Sale announcement, and a short note on “Among Others”

My unclassifiable maybe-flash, maybe-prose poem “Bone Shadows” will appear in the poetry section of the new Interfictions. Sofia Samatar edits the poetry department, so if you have something suitable, please consider sending it to her!

Tangentially, there is an odd blog post on Black Gate entitled “SFF Corruption” in which a blogger is accusing Jo Walton and a few other authors of logrolling the Nebula. He also calls Among Others “banal.” I am not going to argue with this blogger, it is not worth my time. However, I wanted to remark on Among Others. In the interests of full disclosure, I have published a poem by Jo in Stone Telling 3, and have been talking with her on Livejournal, and she has been very kind to me on many occasions. But I am also an extremely critical reader, and it is very hard to get me to vote for anything. I only vote for things that astound me. So. When I was shortlisted for my academic dream job and the campus interview started going south, I stole moments to read Among Others on my Kindle, because it sustained me. I recommended this book to everyone – friends, colleagues, graduate students, undergraduate students, former students. I gave two copies away even though I could not afford it. I discussed the book with academic acquaintances with whom I hardly ever talk about SFF. And heck yeah, I put it on my Nebula ballot. That’s what I do when a work wows me to this degree. And I will continue to do so.

Reprint sale

My Jewish magic realist short story “Seven Losses of Na Re”, which originally appeared in Daily Science Fiction, will be reprinted in Ann and Jeff Vandermeer’s feminist speculative fiction anthology.

Small poetry announcement

My two small poetic fragments from the Crow Epic, “The Journeymaker, Climbing” (written for Sonya Taaffe) and “The Journeymaker to Keddar,” will appear in the Winter 2013 edition of Goblin Fruit.

“The Three Immigrations” up at Strange Horizons

My magic realist poem “The Three Immigrations” about real and fantastic immigrations (and languages) is up at Strange Horizons. Many thanks to the SH team for giving it a home.

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Rose Lemberg is a queer, bigender immigrant from Eastern Europe and Israel. Their work has appeared in Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Unlikely Story, Uncanny, and other venues, and has been a finalist for the Nebula, Tiptree, Elgin, Rhysling, and Crawford awards.

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