Alchemy of Stars

I've been periodically mentioning some of the books I recently got with gift certificates, etc. One that I haven't mentioned is this collection of (almost) all the Rhysling-winning poems from 1978-2004 (there was, I believe, one poem that they didn't get permission to reprint...possibly from things I've seen elsewhere through political infighting stuff). I've always enjoyed poetry, well, maybe not always, but at least since high school. Among my favorites I've always counted Gerard Manley Hopkins and E. E. Cummings (the urban legend that he legally changed his name to lowercase is not true, by the way). And countless individual poems--"Dover Beach," "The Hollow Men," "These," "Kubla Khan," poems by Donne and Herbert, by Marianne Moore and Denise Levertov, by Andrew Marvell, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Wendell Berry, and Dylan Thomas. By Paul Simon and Bob Dylan even (my assigned poetry book for my first creative writing class included Simon's "Sound of Silence").

So that's a pretty broad range of subjects and styles (and most certainly leaves out some that on another day I would demand be included). But I wasn't terribly familiar with speculative poetry itself, so it's been fun to familiarize myself a bit. I first became aware of the book from Strange Horizons's series of articles examining the winning poems from several years in depth. (And I had already been learning a bit about the field just by reading the new poems they and other online magazines have been publishing).

I don't read a poetry collection straight through or exclusively. So I haven't read all of them yet. And I can't claim to have a favorite just from reading through a poem once. But a couple jumped out at me as being especially good, and since I read them both on the same day, that seemed worthy of note (though it could be that I was just in an especially poetic mood that day or something). Usually I'm more drawn to the short form poems, but these are both long form winners, both from 1989: Bruce Boston's "In the Darkened Hours," which beings "So you are lost again / beneath the turning hub / of the fire flecked sky"; and John M. Ford's "Winter Solstice, Camelot Station," which I like especially for its concept, a strange story of Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table retold in a train station--wonderfully evocative (and evocative tends to be what I like about those poems that are my favorites...and stories often as well).


We studied "Sounds of Silence" and "I am a Rock" as poems my senior year of high school. And here I thought my teacher was unique. :)
Daniel Ausema said…
Very unique ;) I don't think our teacher actually made much of that poem--it was a full anthology, and he focused on the more traditional poems. But it was there for me to discover (and being a sheltered child, that and the band piece we did the same year, "The Genius of Paul Simon," were my introduction to him, even before I was really familiar with the songs in their original contexts...too busy listening to Def Leppard, I guess. And for some reason, "Pour some sugar on me" wasn't in any poetry book...).
Def Leppard? My highbrow image of you is totally shattered. :p

We ended up nicknaming our AP English class AP Paul Simon. I had already had my introduction to the music courtesy of my dad's record collection, though. Yup, actual vinyl.
Daniel Ausema said…
=) My high school music tastes were decidedly low brow (my big three were Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Van Halen...I even still have a few CDs of those, though mostly that goes back to cassette days). Wonder who my big three would be now. Certainly Paul Simon. And Bob Dylan and Harry Chapin maybe? But that leaves out Pink Floyd and a variety of other styles...