Review: Where Rockets Burn Through / Edited by: Russell Jones / Publisher: Penned in the Margins / Release Date: Out Now
Science fiction. Poetry. Two genres arguably niche in readership, yet to aficionados of both worth treasuring and obsessing over. Throughout contemporary poetry, writers adhere to Ezra Pound's cry to 'make it new': using language in innovative ways. Like poetry, science fiction also strives to make things new: exploring innovative concepts whilst achieving a semblance of verisimilitude. Science fiction and poetry, on paper at least, should be the perfect marriage.
And, fortunately, it is! Penned in the Margins is a relatively young publishing house that specialises in poetry, spoken word and performance. Its new anthology, Where Rockets Burn Through, stays away from any crass “there's a rocket / in my pocket” doggerel. With contributions from UK writers, the sheer variety of poems in Where Rockets Burn Through makes the book a veritable chocolate box; the book is divided into sections using lines from the poetry of the late Edwin Morgan (the first Scots Makar).
The poetry is mostly contemporary with an emphasis on free verse. However, there are a few poems which adhere to some sort of form including a series of haiku (Andrew J Wilson's 'Alone Against the Night'), riddle poems (including Sarah Westcott's beautiful poem 'O') and Malene Engelund's unsettling 'Owls':
“They have the eyes of the drowned.
That yellow, skull-locked stare of those
who went further, who dived for the grey
of stones and the hell of it.”
The cover art work of the book is a cheeky nod to the 'pulp' nature of SF. Indeed, there are poems on Martians (Peter Finch's sinister 'Mars Attacks!'), Flash Gordon (Andrew J Wilson's 'Merciless'), Star Trek (Clare Askew's 'The Trekker's Wife') and ray guns (Jon Stone's 'Torn Page from a Chapter on Ray Guns'). Other themes include dystopia, robot mythology, and politics can be seen in 'From the Unofficial History of the European Southern Observatory in Chile' by astronomer and writer Pippa Goldschmidt. Poetry's rich history is nicely acknowledged in Ken Macleod's 'The Morlock's Arms' which borrows from T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland.
If you are a poetry fan, this collection will sit happily with other anthologies. If you're a SF fan, this book is a great introduction to poetry and to some fantastic writers. Where Rockets Burn Through is an excellent addition to the science fiction poetry genre, and a welcome contribution to the wider field of contemporary poetry.