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Dwarf Star 2009, Part 2 of 3

And here's part 3...start here for part one, and here for part three.


"shot of whiskey" - Joshua Gage

My issue with this nomination is that, without the original context of the poem, a senryu challenge with a space western topic, the poem reads as sexist and cliché. Knowing that it’s supposed to be a space western senryu, the cliché is, hopefully, seen as humorous. Without that knowledge, presented as it is, the poem ultimately fails. Furthermore, the verb choice in L2 lengthens the line too much, and should be something more immediate. There is just too much with this piece that isn’t working for it to be considered a finalist.

"stars invisible" - Joshua Gage

I’ve always been concerned with this piece, because I’m not sure if “Kessler Syndrome” is a known topic, even though there were hints of it in Wall-E, and considering that the poem more or less hinges on that concept, that might lead to an unsuccessful piece. That being understood, there’s nothing to stop anyone from looking it up, and I think it’s an idea understood by enough people in the speculative community for this poem to work. What I do like about this piece is the speaker’s sense of being trapped in their misery, which is compounded not only by the implied loss but also by the physical restraints imposed by the Kessler Syndrome. That heaviness of emotion and longing are two traits which I feel the best tanka carry, and so overall this piece works for me.

The Tongue-Cut Sparrow's Song for the Woodsman's Wife - Jeannine Hall Gailey

Again, haibun are not poems, so automatic rejection.

As far as the piece itself, the haiku at the end of this prose is much too wordy to work as a haiku. Furthermore, it seems to summarize the prose instead of creating a juxtaposition against the prose, which tends to be what one looks for in a strong haibun. Even a few solid images to extend the prose might have worked, but instead the reader is left with more of a moral. Overall, this piece doesn’t work for me, but especially not as a Dwarf Stars nominee.

The Lure of an Older Woman - Toni J. Gardner

I love the twist of this poem, and the implied sexuality of the character without being overtly sexual and/or political is, for me, an extremely powerful statement. My only issue, really, with this poem is the punctuation of the last two lines. The way the sentence is constructed, there’s either a misplaced comma or a pronoun without an antecedent.  It’s a little confusing, and I’m hoping it’s a typo. Outside of that issue, this is a really solid poem, and one of the first in this anthology that contains the sort of layers that I would expect from a winning entry.

"quantum mechanics" - James Gianforti

As a humorous piece, this works. The pun is silly, but I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be. However, it doesn’t really go beyond that; if humor is the reader’s thing, then I could see this working. I want more layers of depth in award winning pieces, and so I’d pass on it.

 "trying to imitate" - Sanford Goldstein

I don’t see this as speculative at all. The mention of a speculative trope, in this case the planet Mars, doesn’t make a speculative poem. Also, the fact that Goldstein declares his inspiration surrealism takes this out of speculative consideration. With that in mind, though I see this working as a tanka, I don’t see it as a Dwarf Stars winner.

Study/Violet - Leonard Gonatarek

This piece seems to have a lot of imagery, and possibly some allegory, but on closer inspection, is too dependent on abstraction to be effective as a poem. Every key turn in the narrative--lines 2, 6 and 8—has some sort of abstraction that Gonatarek seems to allegorize, but not enough that the images of the overall piece carry forth any deeper meaning. What images are here work well, but the heavy use of abstraction in such a short piece simply doesn’t work for me.

"full moon" - John Grey

My issue with this haiku is that there’s too much plot. Grey is trying to cram three distinct images, and two clearly different moments in time, into one haiku, and that simply doesn’t work within the traditions of haiku, so the poem falls apart.

"sailor's ear" - M. Kei

This is another piece that, based on its original context, I can’t read as speculative. The opening image could refer to a specific ear, in which case this could be seen as horrific, as though all that was left of the sailor was their ear. As it is, I see the ear still connected to the head, or possibly a reference to some disease, as in “tennis elbow,” “sea legs,” “sailors ear,” etc. I don’t see it as horrific, and thus the speculative is lost for me.

"the dead rise" - M. Kei

I felt cheated by this poem. I was very excited when I first read it because I thought Kei was referring to some legend, that the Lantern Queen was some mythic figure who ferried the souls of the dead or something similar. Then, doing some research to read up on the legend, I discovered that it was a boat. This is a poem, essentially, about a refurbished boat. Not speculative, and thus no Dwarf Stars.

"moonless world" - Patricia Kelly

This is a great scifaiku, as it takes a natural element, though a speculative one, and juxtaposes it against human nature. The desire to look up at the moon, despite its non-existence, really works for me. This is exactly what a scifaiku should be—speculative element, strong juxtaposition, deep resonance, a sense of longing, minimal language. This is a completely effective poem.

"just as I" - Mariko Kitakubo (tr Amelia Fielden)

This is a really excellent tanka, and the speculative element is quite clear. What I love is the use of ambiguity. The opening image doesn’t explain everything, but doesn’t need to. This could be a strait on the sea, or possibly one in space. That sort of ambiguity I strongly encourage. The idea that this place is ominous is carried in the next image, and though the verb choice in L5 is a little cliché, the piece still works as a whole.

“lest we stray" - Mariko Kitakubo (tr Amelia Fielden)

I’m not as thrilled with this Kitakubo piece as with the last one. I see how it’s working, but the opening line, which seems to be essential to the piece, seems a bit too vague to me. I’m not sure why straying would be a possibility, so the rest of the piece, though resonant, doesn’t follow through emotionally for me. I understand how the emotion is supposed to work, though, and I could certainly see this as a potential winner for readers who connect with the opening line.

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