Magazine Review – Liminality: A Magazine of Speculative Poetry

AngelFaceI’ve reviewed a single issue of a magazine (and thus, by default the magazine itself – Mythic Delirium). This time I’m reviewing an entire issue of a brand new online magazine. Liminality – A Magazine of Speculative Poetry, edited by Rhysling-winning poet Shira Lipkin and Dwarf Stars Award-winning poet Mat Joiner, just published it’s inaugural issue in September. It is, as advertised, a magazine, which focuses on Speculative Poetry. Each quarter poems “that touch the heart as much as the head; poems of the liminal, the fluid, and the fantastic.” (From the About Us page of the site) By “liminal” they mean poetry that isn’t easily categorized, that “shifts shape”, changes or is transformative, and which embraces diversity. They want to hear from new writers, but publish established poets as well. I welcome another magazine on genre poetry. We find ourselves in an era where poetry can blossom from every crevice and be showcased quite successfully.


The table of contents is impressive, and about twice as long in this debut issue than subsequent ones will be:


“A Summoning of Monsters” – Jack Hollis Marr

“Love Letters for the Itinerant” – Lisa M. Bradley

“The Furtive Pantheon” – Erik Amundsen

“The devil riding your back” – Gabby Reed

“A Broken Heart” – Lev Mirov

“Arson Poetica” – Dana Koster

“For Sale” – Susan Carlson

“Sacred” – Gemma Files

“Made Out of the Terror” – Jazz Sexton

“Collyer” – Rachel Verkade

“Self-Portrait as Bilbo Baggins” – Ada Hoffmann

“Topological Grief” – Mary Alexandra Agner

“Ghosting” – Lynette Mejía

Mat Joiner
editor Mat Joiner

“Love in Graduate School” – Cassandra Phillips-Sears

“Scion” – G.K. Hansen

“The Knowing” – Alicia Cole

“moss covered” – Amber Bird

“Sea Widow” – J.C. Runolfson

“The Word for Love” – Adrienne J. Odasso

“Orpheus Rides West/Letter to Eurydice from Deep Inside the Teenage Wasteland” – Nate Maxson

“Make the Night Go Faster” – Sofia Samatar


Nine of 21 names are familiar to me.Yea! Old “friends”! Yea! New voices! A couple will be more familiar through their fiction than their poetry. The editors invite us to engage with the poems, get inspired, enter into dialogue. Are you inspired to write an Answer Poem to any that you’ve read? What about writing music to accompany the poem or even a song? Is art your thing? What images come to mind?


Liminality mangrovedryadSpeaking of which, the cover art for the magazine is gorgeous. The artist, M.C.A. Hogarth, calls it “Mangrove Dryad”. I just love it! The Dryad melts into the tree so perfectly that at a cursory glance you don’t even see her, but once you have, you can’t un-see her. She is one with the tree and the sea she’s looking out over. Hogarth is an artist and a writer. Check out her website here.

Lipkin and Joiner have assembled a collection of poetry that perfectly embodies the focus they’ve set for themselves. The poems occupy the space between and reading them often put me in a kind of nebulous place – foggy and off-balance and not knowing quite which way we are going. The people who inhabit these poems are also somewhere in-between, internally or externally, not knowing where they fit in, or even if they ever will, and it was this, which evoked a sense of recognition. As a person of many dichotomies, I found myself nodding, and my heart and mind opening to recognize glimpses of myself, and others in the world around me. Recognizing that I am not alone in this world and neither are you. This is when speculative poetry is at its best, folks.


So many of these poems are wonderful. Actually, there’s not a dud in the lot. Let’s take a look at some of the poetry itself:


I had a hard time choosing which ones to present to you in audio form here. I’m not sure I could explain to you now why I chose these four. My preference for SF over Fantasy probably played into my choice of “A Broken Heart” by Lev Mirov; it requires us to accept the basic setting of post-space-war, but this poem would not work if that weren’t part of it. Have a listen and then we’ll continue:

Audio: “A Broken Heart” by Lev Mirov


You see how Mirov puts us off-balance right from the start? Everything seems real, the way the war veteran speaks of their broken heart, showing us that they don’t mean “broken heart” metaphorically, but as we progress through the narrative we see how this situation is quite surreal, in fact. I find the last line especially satisfying, for, despite all the incredulousness of how it happened, the why is something in which they are quite secure and we are catapulted from the poem with a sense of purpose.

* * *

I have enjoyed Ada Hoffmann’s poetry in the past, and “Self-Portrait as Bilbo Baggins” is a very good introduction. Listen:

Audio: “Self-Portrait as Bilbo Baggins” by Ada Hoffmann

At first, there doesn’t seem much that is mysterious, but as we look back with the narrator on the first reading (or first few readings?) of The Hobbit we see how this child identifies with Bilbo Baggins and longs for the person to whom they are speaking (a parent?) to see the parallels in their lives as they march toward some difficult period after which everything is changed.

* * *

I don’t pretend to understand “The Knowing” by Alicia Cole, one of my favorite poets, but there is something unspeakable beautiful about the language. Listen and just let it wash over you:


Audio: “The Knowing” by Alicia Cole


The start of the poem is like opening a novel and starting in the middle somewhere, don’t you think? That there is a whole narrative that precedes that first line: “When they first walk out of the cave, my sisters are shaking.” Then, moving our attention from the bowels of the earth, to the various women and girls as they are helped to make the transition, the last too lines lift us up with a growing vine and finally the tops of our heads are blasted open to the heavens:


Dropped seeds quicken, tangle in the flower’s beds. Vines,

Green and twining, rise, say; speak with the tongues of stars.


What it all means I couldn’t say, but whatever it is, it’s in the process of changing me.

* * *

Amber Bird’s first published poem “moss covered” is a gorgeous thing. But are we talking about a person or a tree here? Listen:


Audio: “moss covered” by Amber Bird


It’s all a little dream-like but the images are of a person who is a tree. Or a tree who is a person. Or maybe we’re talking about a Wood Nymph as in the cover art for the issue. It is not explicit, but reading this I felt like a young naïve girl turning slowly this way and that, as I try to look at myself and understand what I am. It’s very melancholic, actually, because there is lots of doubt, regret, nostalgia and loss and longing in the words, but there is a sort of resigned hope in the last lines:

really, i am circuit-traced but

dream myself a greener future.

* * *

Other favorite poems in this debut issue are “The devil riding your back”, by Gabby Reed; “Sea Widow”, by J.C. Runolfson; “The Word for Love”, by Adrienne J. Odasso; and “Make the Night Go Faster”, by Sofia Samatar. But really, they are all worth your time. I can’t wait to see what Shira Lipkin and Mat Joiner gift us with next time!


* * *


That’ll do it for this time. I think it’s time for another Genre Poetry Round-up, don’t you? If you want to point me towards anything in particular that I should feature – by all means, shoot me an email!

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