Of the three books I’ve released this year, my short story collection Unseaming is getting by far the most attention, a lot more attention I’m used to, frankly, which is a great thing. Unsurprisingly, though, my new poetry collection, Hungry Constellations (which, thanks to the editorial labors of Dominik Parisien, is my best yet, without question) has gone just about completely unsung. This is fitting in a number of ways; I’ve gone over the past ten years from someone who was at the dead center of all the exciting things taking shape in the speculative poetry scene to someone who feels almost no compelling connection to any aspect of it. As far as my own writing is concerned, I’ve been shown the way forward, and it doesn’t have much to do with poetry.
But that doesn’t mean I’m done with poems; and that’s why the review of Hungry Constellations by John Philip Johnson that appeared in the latest issue of Star*Line is so personally gratifying.
The poems in Mike Allen’s latest book, Hungry Constellations, make a rowdy, red-tinged tapestry, representing twenty years of work from one of the major creative forces in this genre. These poems are physical, expansive, and revolutionary. They are grand and dystopic. They seethe with the conflict of opposites. Allen likes the destructive side of creation as much as the emergent side. He likes dying gods, because they need to be revived or transformed. He writes about stars and legends and human beings contending with the monster-filled and glorious cosmos. He does it all with a relentless, energetic style, full of thought and invention. … even if you aren’t a fan, I urge you to reconsider, for I was a recent outsider to this clan, and from that outsider perspective, Mike Allen’s work was one of the things I saw that gave grace and importance to a genre that sometimes loomed too close to limericks.
This is a review that actually startled me more than once with its level of insight into the places my poetry comes from. Not as in, “Hey, somebody finally figured out what I’m up to,” but as in, “Wow! Somebody just mapped out something that I’m doing, and even though I’ve never articulated this approach even to myself, what he says is dead on.” So thank you, John Johnson.
(The full review is posted on the Science Fiction Poetry Association website. However, there is no direct link: you have to go to this page where all the reviews are posted and scroll down or search the page for “Hungry Constellations.”)