Review by Star*Line (The Science Fiction Poetry Association)
Issue 36.2, April 2013
In his Introduction, illustrator Howard Schwartz claims that McCray’s book Why Photographers Commit Suicide “is an ingenious vision of a future in which life on Mars resembles life on Earth as we know it” as well as “a satire of life on this planet.” It is that latter point that keeps us from taking the poems too seriously, since the author more often pokes fun at all aspects of life, both here and in the “final frontier.”
McCray’s first poems offer some uniqueness of language and lovely images, such as “sheet-snapped flurries,” and “the porcupine feeling of antiseptic air” from “Imagine Mars:”
Imagine the smell of autumn in a test tube,
cloning sickly trees,
with nowhere to go,
I’d like to dwell a bit longer with McCray in this place, even when she is ready to move to the less sober. Take the beginning of “Things My Astronaut Is Afraid Of,”
• Talking about our collected net worth
• Coming in outer space
• Raindrops on roses
• And reckless zambonies
The obvious reference brings a smile, and McCray uses this technique often. But she has the ability to reach beyond the easy, and I wanted to see a few more examples of that ability. McCray herself says in the Preface to her book, “…I hope one day all disciplines of thinking, all arts and sciences, will become reconciled to each other, that geologists and oceanographers will read poems to research the mysteries of land and sea, and that poets will embark on voyages to locate sunken ships, to decipher the physics of music, to unearth the charms of a treasure map, or to explore space.”
We see her hope played out in a poem like “Children of Algebra,”
Children of algebra, you must work
through my binary lies with your questions
and your hypotheses of discontent—
all your lives adding up to fractals.
Count on your fingers—if it calms you.
But swings back to satire with “Sex in Zero Gravity:”
run your fingers like lasers,
escape velocity through my motor heart,
the acceleration thrust
of your deep-space Cadillac cruising
my jellyfish tremors …
Such swings may leave the reader feeling a little off-balance, and perhaps that is her goal. In all, the poems have some interesting “spins,” using word-play and recognizable symbols to invoke feeling. My hope is that we’ll see more of McCray’s work as she reaches beyond the planets to tangle with subject matter in a serious and sustained way.
Read the review at The Science Fiction Poetry Association's website.