Thursday, August 23, 2012

Poetry Review: On the Brink of Never

On the Brink of Never, compiled by David C. Kopaska-Merkel, is a collection of apocalyptic poetry written by various authors: Kopaska-Merkel himself, Jennifer Schwabach, Jaime Lee Moyer, Marcie Lynn Tentchoff, Terrie Leigh Relf, Marsheila Rockwell and Samantha Henderson.

Do you have any idea how many ways the "world" can end or when? And what happens afterwards? These questions are explored in this slim volume and each poem brings a little surprise. This is the blurb:

The ancient Maya had a rich mythology. Their religious beliefs included the notion that the world would end on December 21, 2012. For reasons best known to themselves, hordes of modern folk have converted to this ancient religion. If belief sustains the existence of gods, as some have suggested, then perhaps it also sustains the validity of prophecy. I hope not. Because if belief alone can make prophecy real, millions and millions of lapsed Abrahamic religionists may have doomed the rest of us to extinction along with themselves. Nice going guys! In a spirit of hopelessness and despair, engendered by the realization that a boatload of gullible fools are taking us with them into oblivion, we offer the following tribute. I don't know what day you bought this book, but just in case: read fast!
~ David C. Kopaska-Merkel, Terra, Year N-2

The authors form a group, encouraged by Mikal Trimm (strangely absent among those represented in the collection), called the Hitting the Muse group. As explained in the Foreword, they encourage one another to write and give critique to hone their craft. Most of the poems collected are a direct result of this fellowship.

Gathered within is an apocalyptic lullaby (the earth will moan / and scream, my loveling, / and heave, and crack / in fissures deep), a love testament (And we stand together / As we always have, / Watching while the sky falls.), the sun personified (My birth spawned yours; likewise, my death / Our love began with an explosion), the olympic gods (London, 2012 / Apollo's first arrow took out / The entire upper tier / Of Lord's Grand Stand), quite realistic blame laying (We’ve fouled our nest for centuries, / Done exactly as we please, / Our misdeeds now have come to bite us), zombies (and I exhaled with relief, / believing the zombie infestation / had devoured the entire chorus.), remembering what's important (Your daughter's last ballet recital, ... Your son's first real "grownup" party), extinction on another planet (Rescue is not / Coming, not now / Too far away / Supplies short), death by comet (It missed us by more than 200,000 miles. / Missed us, but hit the moon), post-apocalyptic life ("Reality bites," I think, but don't say / while a few folks share stale peanut butter)(They say, "remember," / and I try to see the world's / ending through the eyes of people / like my parents, who survived.) and many, many more.

Some favorites of mine include "Fate" by Jaime Lee Moyer, "The Sun God Bids
Farewell to His Lover" and "When the Comet Came" by Marsheila Rockwell, naturally "The Sign Read: Post-Apocalyptic Choir Seeking New Members" by Terrie Leigh Relf, "Spring" by Jennifer Schwabach, David C. Kopaska-Merkel's "Keepin' On" and "A Wink Of The
Further Eye", and Marcie Lynn Tentchoff's "Remembrance Day".

There are serious poems and touching poems, poems to ponder and poems to chuckle over (amazingly), so there is something for everyone, I dare say. I received a .pdf version of this for review, so I can say nothing about the physical volume.

You can purchase a hard copy of On the Brink of Never at Alban Lake and at Smashwords in ebook format.


Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Narration - The Timpanist of the Berlin Philharmonic - 1942, by Kim Stanley Robinson

At long last, I have another narration up on StarShipSofa No. 249. It is a very moving story by the imminent Science Fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson. This isn't actually a Science Fiction story - at least not as far as I can tell. I'm not actually sure why Tony wanted this story for StarShipSofa, except that any story by KS Robinson would be a good draw for the podcast and I think that is the idea for this month of August with 2 new podcasts he's plugging.

Anyway back to the story. It is ostensibly about the political climate in Berlin in 1942 and what happened to and in the Berlin Philharmonic at the time. The Timpanist's very personal story is intertwined with descriptions of  his relationship to Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. The Symphony is a character in this story and all the "action" takes place during the course of the Berlin Philharmonic's performance of it on Hitler's birthday in 1942. There are some chilling moments as well as some very emotional moments. It is a rare story which gives a positive light to some "ordinary" and extraordinary people who did their best in a bleak time in which there seemed no hope. I almost wish it were in German so that all my German friends could listen to it. Germans as a people still struggle with how to come to terms with the events of WWII and they come down very hard on themselves as a general rule. For the most part this is the correct attitude, but there's always a flip side and this is one of them. It's powerful stuff. I used the actual recording of the symphony from that very night. Not much just about 60 seconds or so of it, but the timing is just perfect with the story...

Go listen to it: The Timpanist of the Berlin Philharmonic - 1942, by Kim Stanley Robinson Tony's intro and the segment about the cover art for the month of August isn't long, but if you'd rather skip straight to the story it begins at the 5'15" minute mark. It's about 45 minutes long.

I'd love to hear what you think about the story and/or my narration. You can post here or at StarShipSofa's Forum Episode Feedback page or FaceBook page.

In other news, I'm still working on The Rhysling Award Showcase edition of Poetry Planet. It'll probably come out in 2 weeks time because Tony appears to be on vacation. Either that or he's sleeping at the desk. :-)