Volume 28, Number 2-3, Winter, Spring, 2010

Private Worlds: A Revised Atlas
Poetry and Haikus

By Scott Green

Abbott ePublishing, 2009
Reviewed by Anders Monsen

With Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and Apple’s iPad, the future of publishing has hitched its post to electronic print. The fact that Amazon sells six Kindle editions for every 10 print editions speaks volumes. People read books, magazines, and newspapers on these devices, as they can pack multiple works in an easy and convenient format for trips and daily commutes. Aside from convenience, eBook pricing might entice readers to new discoveries. Scott E. Green is a poet who has been writing and publishing science fiction/fantasy and horror poems for over 35 years. His collection Private Worlds: A Revised Atlas, is available for $2.49 as an eBook in mobipocket format and is available exclusively at Abbott ePublishing online (abbottepub.com).

In his slim volume of 99 haikus and short poems about science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers plus actors and directors, Green manages to condense down into a few spare words the essences of his subjects. As I read through these poems multiple times, I felt the most powerful effects initially when coming across names that I recognized. When I later revisited poems with more unknown names, I felt the authors reach out and call for additional discovery.

Almost every poem bears the title of the inspiration, along with the word “world,” such as “Baum’s World,” “Ellison’s World,” “Vance’s World,” etc. A few contain first names—“Raymond Chandler’s World,” “Ed McBain’s World,” “Bruce Lee’s World”—there are several that might require clarification, such as “Fort’s World.” One is simply entitled, “Hanna-Barbera.” Another employs word play—“Disney World.”

Although arranged alphabetically by the author or auteur’s last names, rather than by theme or genre, the poems could just as readily be approached in any order. It would be both impossible and unfair to review every poem here. Instead, I hope that by showing some highlights I can describe the breadth of scope in this massive homage. The aforementioned “Hanna-Barbera,” for example, resonated deeply with me, as I grew up watching many of their cartoons. I could not help but smile as I read the lines:

In their world
Talking animals
Are smarter
Than the average
And wiser, too, in
Their foolishness.

In the emotions created by these poems lie their strength. No one who has read or seen The Wizard of Oz can escape the imagery of three elegant lines, in “Baum’s World”:

Snares lie by the side
Of the road to home.
Waiting for the unwary.

The ones that drew me back again and again were the ones which dealt with people whose names were familiar, like Jack Vance who merited two poems. Strangely enough, I did not feel Green’s words here captured the essence of Vance, but we may have different perspectives of the writer. In the first, the lines about an

Edifice of words,
Carefully selected,
Propelling man into
The future

seemed only partially true, as Vance seemed to me less concerned about the future than a certain timelessness. Perhaps that’s just my interpretation of Vance, as certainly many of his science fiction tales were futuristic.

Certain poems brought out the most well-known characters or themes in writers, such as “M.W. Wellman’s World”:

Music poured from silver
And a true heart,
The only barrier against
The old gods who haunt
Wooded hills and the song
Of the lark.

Wellman’s stories about John the Balladeer, aka Silver John, may not be as well-remembered today as in the 1980s, but anyone who has read even one of those stories would immediate recognize the subject from the first line alone. Where Green succeeds best is when the few lines convey a recognizable essence of his subject’s world. Where he stumbles is when the reader must think too long about what was said.

Although the people who inspire the poems range from sf writers to puppeteers (such as Gerry and Sylvia Anderson), writers from two centuries hence as well as much more recent ones, martial arts artists and cartoonists, they all share in common the ability to create art, and through their creations inspire others to create art. We enter our favorite creators’ worlds like explorers, and stand in amazement at what shape they take with words and motions, where we feel “like some watcher in the skies,” as Keats wrote about Chapman’s Homer. Such amazement Green must have felt, and tried to convey, after being inspired by the subjects of his poems.

While barely noticeable in a novel, typos in such a short volume as this one stand out starkly when they appear. Surely writer and editor would have caught such obviously reoccurring ones as “there” instead of “their” (“Where robots cry over there dead Creators,” “By the brights of there spandex,” and “There eyebrows are always raised.”), the more egregious “Steal” instead of “Steel” (in a poem about Superman’s creators). When they occur in titles, such as “Macen” instead of “Machen,” and “Stroker” instead of “Stoker” the effect is more jarring. These mistakes do nothing but detract from an otherwise fine book, and lend ambiguity in at least two poems. This must be fixed for any future editions. These unfortunate typos are the only downside to the publication.

Poetry in sf tends to be a narrow field, with few opportunities for general publication. Abbott’s eBook enables reasonably priced access compared to print. Electronic press will only gain in popularity and showcase more authors. Anyone who enjoys sf poetry would do well to give this collection a try.

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