Shelly Bryant (Cyborg Chimera, Under the Ash) is a prolific poet whose work never fails to inspire readers with pointed and poignant images that rise from the earth on the wings of spare words. Her new collection Voices of the Elders from Sam’s Dot Publishing is startling in the risks taken, the variety of its forms and references and the scope of its vision.
The fifty-five poems in this 59-page volume, many of which have appeared in “Aoife’s Kiss,” “Scifaikuest,” “Sloth Jockey” and other publications, are grouped into four sections—seduction, obstruction, destruction and abduction.
Jason Gantenberg aptly describes Bryant’s scope in these groupings in the book’s introduction: “What I’ve always loved about Shelly’s writing is the breadth of genres and periods in which she embeds her thoughts. There are few writers who will quite so fearlessly juxtapose classical Anglo-Saxon fantasies about fairies and dragons with ruminations on supernovae, historical fiction with futurism, cynical politics with whimsy.”
In “Oort” Bryant writes of “a failed planet” that’s “denuded of destiny,” followed by “Styx” an “eternal river” with an “ever-changing flow,” followed by “Bargain Hunter” about a young man in a store who makes a five-dollar purchase out of books for “aficionados with loads of cash.” The poem ends with these lines:
properly pirated porn
just like the real thing
“Keep it in the Family,” begins:
and its child
creep into familiar lines
And “Voice of the Elder” ends:
the elder dryad
to the swirling storm
raises his dying howl
I will return to “Memories Shared, Standing on Your Balcony,” the writer’s block in “Project,” “Men of Renown” with their Achilles heels and the other fresh-faced words in Voices of the Elders many times, for while they speak to me of today’s world in today’s language, they are, I think, penned by an old and very wise soul.