Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sporty Spec a review

I really enjoy poetry anthologies; for me, an anthology is a like a brew pub sampler.

Some pieces will be weak, some will be tart, some will be down right bad, and some will be excellent. However, for the money, you usually get a great deal, and get to try a little bit of everything. So it is with Sporty Spec, recently published by Raven Electrick Ink. Now, speculative writing concerning sports (or sports writing of a speculative nature) could be cheesy, if not downright silly and demeaning to both genres of writing. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that most of the pieces in this anthology worked.

Some pieces that stood out, for me:
  • "The Sport of Kings" is a flash fiction piece which pits a real horse and rider combination against mechanized, robotic horses. Author Paul Abbamondi opens up the question of the real advances made by technology, and what happens to the authentic or natural when competing against the mechanized or virtual.
  • C. A. Gardener enters a game of chess with Oberon in her poem "Riding to Faery," and redefines the game using pagan archetypes.
  • "Running for Life" by Brenta Blevins features a dark cross country coach, an even darker,
    mythic woods, and a young girl who discovers the real reason people run.
  • Deborah P. Kolodji writes a tanka that approaches ice moon Europa from the
    view of an ice skater.
  • Samantha Henderson's "The Tithing Hunt" is a dark lyric, which starts out with a deceptively simply rhyme scheme, imitating an English folk song. However, like many folk songs and rhymes, once the listener reaches the end, things aren't as pleasant as one expects.
  • Local poet Michael Ceraolo celebrates man's imagination by pitting it against machines in his poem "Games People Play."
  • Camille Alexa teeters into magical realism with her short fiction piece "Night Vaulting," which concerns the dreams of a young paraplegic.

However, my favorite piece in the whole anthology would have to be "Organic Geometry" by Andrew C. Ferguson, which uses cricket and a cricket player to analyze and question the destructive drive of humanity.

The pace of this anthology works well. Each piece is short, so a reader has time to nibble, taking a few minutes at a time to read each one and savor it. The range of this anthology is also impressive, spanning from the eerie and dark to the fun and silly, and touching every base in between.

However, the work rarely gets tired or forced, which is impressive, considering the obscurity of the anthology's topic. Karen A. Romanko did a great job putting together this anthology, and it would make a terrific read for anyone interested in speculative literature, sports literature, or good writing in general. Rumor has it that she is putting together another speculative anthology focused on film and cinema; based on the superb job done with this anthology, I am eager to see what she comes up with next.

Joshua Gage

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The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau