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Nebula Novella Inspired Poems

April is National Poetry Month, and this spring I took my very first poetry class. How could I NOT share some poetry?

One of the hardest parts of poetry isn’t writing the actual words, it’s finding something to write about. The challenge for a new poet is not finding the Truth in the whole world, but finding the Truth in something very small. Zoom in and inspect something closely. Figure out how it affects you and how it affects the things around it.

I’ve been reading for the Nebulas. There are seven novellas nominated this year, so my big idea was to write one poem per book.

And it was hard. Writing these poems forced me to delve deeper into the emotional core of each piece. It made me spend time thinking about each story on a level that I otherwise might have missed.

The poems aren’t retellings of the stories, and they don’t always exactly fit into the worlds of those stories. Some are more fan fiction. Some are an emotional evaluation of the contents. Some are simply ‘inspired by’.

One poem per book. Here we go.


This first one is inspired by A Psalm for the Wild Built by Becky Chambers. I loved this quiet book for its attention to beauty and balance. I would like a tea monk to visit sometime soon.

in a world balanced
by Anthony W. Eichenlaub

purpose
in a world balanced
with the teleological tea
of the wants of machines and monks

a crickets’ quiet cataclysm 
in a world balanced
a life balanced
balance
not ominous but omnipresent
in the discontent
of quiet utopia

remnants and memories
in a world balanced
between city and wild
between human and robot
between hectic life and the introspection of quiet gods
who do not speak
but
in breath taken with tea in hand
in the pause between doing
in the memory of our ancestors
a balance returns
and the cycle continues

Next, I wrote a haiku inspired by And What Can We Offer You Tonight by Premee Mohamad. This story had such a dark premise and watching it play out is fascinating. It’s hard to boil ANYTHING down into a poem as short as a haiku, but I wanted to give it a shot.

dead lead the way
Anthony W. Eichenlaub

the dead lead the way
now empty of life’s baggage
truest in revenge

Eugenia TriantaFyllou has rocked the short fiction markets for a while now, and her novella The Giants of the Violet Sea does not disappoint. Among other things, it explores death and traditions and ritual in a harsh ocean world. This was a tough poem to write for me because Eugenia’s prose is so damn poetic it kept inviting comparison, and that’s not a great headspace to be in when writing poetry.

into the ink
by Anthony W. Eichenlaub

do you ever wonder where the current takes us?
our lives, an ebbing tide
to wine dark seas
past obelisk
black upon horizon
filling the moonlit night

are we pulled by the gods’ movement through that endless sea?
taken to their distant waters
they watch us
slow slick bulk breaking surface
eyes like abyss
scour us to essence
guide our slide into inky dark

or does the trajectory of our lives usher us through the beyond?
ink of yellow, red, and deepest violet
stories of those we touch
etched upon a canvas of skin
we are artwork cast to sea
nevermore beheld
by the living

Another author who writes beautiful prose is Aliette de Bodard, and Fireheart Tiger is some of her best. The three relationships fascinated me in this book, and when I went to write a poem about them I used it as a chance to explore some parallels.

three women for whom i have suffered love
by Anthony W. Eichenlaub 

there is a weight to her
though she burns. i once fled
the licking flames, sure
that death was at my heels.

she is the consuming rage
of passion. when she possesses
me in her arms there is
nothing else in the world.

my mother’s words leave
bruises that will never heal.
her trust is a heavy
blade above my head.

i remember the fire that consumes
i remember the passion that dominates
i remember the judgment that smothers
but which of these is love?

E. Catherine Tobler’s The Necessity of Stars is told from the perspective of a person with memory loss. It’s powerful and poignant and really an amazing accomplishment.

if memory is a story
by Anthony W. Eichenlaub

if memory is a story
i am protagonist
mary sue
flawed hero
anti hero
chosen one

if memory is a story
and my first memory never happened
then who am i
my origin story
made of sand
or am i a side character
in your story
of your memory
only there to be forgotten

Flowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn was the hardest for me to read, but that’s not a bad thing. It deals with hard themes in powerful ways and I wasn’t sure I could go much deeper with my poetry. I had to try, though, and I’m reasonably happy with where it ended up. Deeper? Not really. But there was a lot to explore in this novella.

oh what it was
by Anthony W. Eichenlaub

oh what it was to be whole
with skin not split
and belly not a gnawing pit
in the center of all things
the sea hungers for us
blades in the sky
tentacles below

oh what it was to be one
with no vampire parasite
sucking wet slick
from sore breast
on a ship
wet with rot
among enemies

oh what it was to be sane
without memory scratching
at a fraying mind
when whispers were the
furtive tryst of lovers
and the musk of sweat
was the passion of
wild embrace

oh what it was to be only me

Aimee Ogden has been another favorite of mine since we shared a table of contents in the Fell Beasts and Fair anthology. Her novella Sun Daughters, Sea Daughters does wonderful things with the Little Mermaid story (like REALLY wonderful things.)

cost
by Anthony W. Eichenlaub

she sought change
at any cost:
a voice
a family
my love
all lost
for one 
who warms his face
in the burning sky

what could she know of cost?
this girl who has experienced only
the wealth of the sea king
the casual privilege of her beauty
the might of the ocean and all its relentless waves

she sought change
for a price she did not understand
she signed the contract without comprehension
but then again nobody ever reads a contract when they want what they want
they only sign
we all sign

we want what we want
at whatever cost
for love’s value outweighs it all

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