At the end of last year, I approached a few editors of speculative poetry to recommend five “Best of…” poems of 2012. I asked that the five recommended poems would be written, edited and published by other people, rather than the editors themselves.

Today’s list has been contributed by Samantha Henderson, a speculative poet and writer who edits inkscrawl.

Samantha’s notes and recommendations:

These can’t be “best of,” because my reading 2012 didn’t even approach comprehensive; like many busy eaters of poems, I take at the table what I can and remember the particularly tasty. Looking over the list it strikes me that all these poems had an urgency of voice, a compelling need to tell something that attracted me.

In no particular order:

Thousands of Years Ago, I Made This String Skirt,” by Alex Dally MacFarlane (Stone Telling 8)

The voice-craft of this poem is stunning: the long-dead narrator, an archeological find, is made alive by the urgency of what she can say – at once angry, joyous, exultant, incredulous – if the reader listens instead of looks with a scholar’s limited eye. My bones remember me, she concludes, less defiant than simply aware that no matter the context in which she’s perceived, she simply is.

Skin Walker,” by Amanda Reck (Goblin Fruit, Spring 2012)

In Reck’s poem a scar – the wear and tear, but also the mapping of the body – becomes a path to the primal: a way of understanding the narrator as a beast (shapeshifter, werewolf, skin walker). Part of that understanding is, I feel, that the beast is a mask and a map in itself, that both disguises and points to the narrator’s willingness to devour experience:

Catch the moon,
if you can. I’ll snatch it back,
clad in this troll’s skin
and eat it like a hot, white heart.

Memphis Street Railway Co. v. Stratton: 1915,” by Elizabeth McClellan (New Myths, June 2012)

This poem spins an eldritch, dark tale from the bare bones of a hundred-year-old lawsuit:

There is only so long you can stare into a hole
in a darkening street before the mind wanders
to someplace abysmal

“A Tanaga,” by David Edwards (Astropoetica, Summer 2012)

I like good science and science fiction poetry; it’s sometimes hard to find (Sofia Samatar’s 2011 poem “Girl Hours” is wonderful example of crunchy science-y goodness ). It’s often especially hard in find in short form; too often I’m reminded of what Catherynne Valente once called “the Future/I mean/wow” poems. I liked this Tanaga’s clever focus on a simple but not intuitive scientific fact – the moon is always full – especially coupled with the accompanying photo of full, half, and crescent moons.

bell, book, candle,” by Gwynne Garfinkle (Strange Horizons, March 2012)

I like Garfinkle’s use of popular culture and wry tone in this melancholic take on making the choice to lose one’s magic (you even lose your cat), perhaps because it reminds me of watching Bewitched and wondering why Samantha would ever forgo her magic for mortal love.

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