Jack and the Jovian Giant



by Kurt MacPhearson

you intergalactic farmer
with three-bean
capitalist dreams
shooting stars
to the tune
of celestial harp strings
that Jovian Giant
swinging satellite clubs
in your afterburner trails–
fee and fie
a deep core of molten fum
with an icy belt
and swirling liver spots
of caustic misanthropy–
leave him
to his cloud-shrouded castle
desperate corporate climber
let go your dream
of that elusive goose
there is
no gold here


Collaborating with Collapsars

I’ve been going through some of my old poems and decided that it was time that I put together a collection of old and new collapsars. I figure I have about a dozen or more to write before I have enough to submit for publication, but I think I can knock them out by the end of January.

I’ve always enjoyed working in collaboration with other poets. In that spirit, I’d like to use suggestions from readers as launching points for some of my remaining collapsars. I’m looking for declarative noun/verb statements such as “Don’t think there’s nothing to fear,” “Every planet wears a ring,” “Between the starry rungs lies a part of space,” and “The Aliens breathe chlorine.” (I’m specifically looking for phrases of a speculative nature, of course.)

Anyone wishing to take part in such a collaborative effort please comment with a suggested statement or two. I look forward to some inspiring phrases.

Here’s a collapsar that I wrote a few years ago under my pseudonym, Kurt MacPhearson.

The Aliens Breathe Chlorine: A Collapsar
by Kurt MacPhearson 

The aliens breathe chlorine
purifies our drinking water
remains essential for deep space
requires thick suits
dominate a CEO’s worst nightmare
evokes little pity in most of us
refuse to acknowledge the aliens
plan to crack open the moon
influences flow in our tides
play havoc on castle walls

stymie the alien’s death machines
attack biochemical constructs
grow up to be girls or boys
dream of being astronauts
roam knight-errant above our skies
aren’t (fortunately) chlorine

Originally appeared in Star*Line 35.4

Getting Bloggy with It

cropped-nebula_image1.jpgI’m new to this blogging thing. In fact, up until I started my own blog I could count on one hand the minutes I’d spent reading other blogs. Didn’t much care. Thought that I could get more of writing speculative poetry by spending time actually writing it than writing about writing it. Besides, I’ve never been at a loss for reading material.

Thing is, I’m pursuing (among other things) a Technical Writing Advanced Certificate from Delta College. One of my courses is New Media Writing, which requires that I maintain a blog. The subject was a no-brainer for me: write what you know. As for the ins and outs of the blogosphere, however, I had no choice but to dive in and try not to make a fool of myself.

Skip ahead two months…

Turns out that this blogging gig is much better than I expected. I do get something out of writing posts about speculative poetry, as reading posts by other bloggers on a variety of topics, such as:

  • A better understanding of my writing process
  • A more intimate knowledge of why I’ve written some of my poems
  • A better understanding of my own writing process through the thoughts of other bloggers
  • A more enjoyable experience than I could have imagined

This post may be the last one required for my class, but I will continue to post for as long as I am able. I love blogging, and I love reading posts by other bloggers, no matter how opinionated.

A few weeks ago, I shared some links to publishers of speculative poetry. My efforts didn’t go to waste because each link has been clicked at least once. One of these days I’ll get my blog sorted out and post a proper list in the sidebar. And since I’m going to do that, I’ll have to post a proper blogroll too. But until then, here are some links to blogs that post or discuss speculative poetry of one flavor or another.

AstroPoetAmee Astropoetry with images and plenty of astronomy links

Tychogirl Astropoetry with a graphical bent.

Bizarre Lag Phenomena Science Poetry often accompanied by images

The Diva’s Divine Days The blog of Diane Severson Mori.  Reviews and links to speculative poetry of all types.

The Finch and the Pea Occasionally highlights poems with a science theme

SCy-Fy: the blog of S. C. Flynn Great speculative poems mixed in with plenty of other science fiction stuff.

static continuity Science fiction and horror poetry

Lastly, here’s a link to DigiCommons, my Professor’s blog. Plenty of info on improving your New Media Writing skills.

Unfolding the Triptych

Last week I discussed the Collapsar, a poetry form that I’ve claimed as my own. This week, I’d like to introduce another poetry form that fits my own style: the Triptych.

Originally, a Triptych was a three-sectioned painting, the center panel usually being larger than the other two. Each panel had its own image, though the three fit together thematically.

There are two types of Triptych poetry forms:

  • A poem of three stanzas. The first stanza comments on the past, the second comments on the present, and the third comments on the future. The second stanza is twice as long as the first and third.
  • A poem consisting of three poems of equal length displayed side-by-side, like the panels of a triptych painting. Not only do the poems work together thematically, like the painting, they actually form a fourth poem. The fourth poem is read horizontally across the three poems. This fourth poem completes the theme of the Triptych.

I prefer the second version because, even though nailing that fourth poem requires some mental gymnastics, I believe it remains true to the original definition of a Triptych by tying all three together to the central theme.

2013 Dwarf StarsI agonized over the following Triptych for weeks before I made all the parts agree grammatically. Most difficult poem I’ve ever written (form-wise, that is). My efforts, however, paid off: I earned publication and nominations for the 2013 Rhysling Award and the Dwarf Stars Award. Now, if I only had the stamina to write more than a few Triptychs a year.


by Kurt MacPhearson

strange how       the aliens           open up
their                     third eye            like a window
perceiving          views                  with shades
can invoke         emotions            showing
revulsion            as                         proof
inside                  a spectrum        of lying

originally appeared in Star*Line, 35.4

Collapsar: A Poem of Collapsed Sentences

Science Fiction Poetry HandbookI don’t claim to have invented this form of poetry. I don’t know if anyone is writing anything like it, and the truth is, I really don’t care. I’m claiming this form as my own. Though to be fair, I must explain from where I co-opted it.

Suzette Haden Elgin dedicates an entire chapter in The Science Fiction Poetry Handbook on how poets exploit grammar rules. At one point, she discusses how poets since ancient Japan have eliminated words at the end of a line that are similar to the ones at the beginning of the next line. The following is her example and explanation:

I bridled a unicorn
is a mythical beast
is under the mountain

“It collapses ‘I bridled a unicorn’ with ‘a unicorn is a mythical beast’ by deleting one instance of ‘a unicorn’. It collapses ‘a unicorn is a mythical beast’ with ‘a mythical beast is under the mountain’ by deleting one instance of ‘a mythical beast.’”

I’ve co-opted this technique and applied to every line in a form I call “collapsar.” I chose this name for three reasons:

  • The lines of the poem are collapsed into each other
  • In scientific terms, a “collapsar” is short for a collapsed star
  • The previous two reasons “collapse” into one perfect name for a speculative-themed poem

The “collapsar” form is more than just collapsed sentences. Each collapsar begins with a statement, such as “Don’t think there’s nothing to fear.” The following line begins with a verb, such as “ripples,” which connects a segment of the first line to create a new statement: “fear ripples through all composite things.” This process continues line-by-line through the poem. The last line, however, incorporates words from the first line to make a new statement. This new statement should reflect or comment on the theme of the poem.

by Kurt MacPhearson

Don’t think there’s nothing to fear
ripples through all composite things
decay into sepulchral echoes
extrapolate like telescopes
peek into the unknown
lurk in ominous shadows
fall after an uttered curse
tastes of wormwood
swills in polystyrene
outlasts most ancient relics
incite fervor in the heart
encapsules time like flies
observe from a crumbling wall
displays a rusty civil defense symbol
reminds us of a bygone era
acts often as an anodyne
struggles to conquer paranoia
keeps us on our toes
hold fast to party lines
confuse conversation’s context
dictates a particular existence
stems from tiny quarks
explode from split atoms
shudder when we think

Originally appeared in Star*Line 36.2