Poet of the Day – Alex Pickens

National Poetry Month April 9, 2020

Alex Pickens

Snorting stardust and cracking hyperspace
Tearing up time continuums with a drag race
Running rings around Saturn and blue Neptune
Speedsters shootings stars of hydrogen fusion boosters
Slingshotting out of groovitational fields until our smiles
Stretch tight across our skulls, and smoke leaks out
Of the amplifiers and nostrils with our doobies askew
Later we’ll get loose and hang from Orion’s belt
And make wishes and flick coins into black holes
Watch them stretch while we down another moonshine —
Wake up in Laughing Sam’s Astroid with some android
A few stars misplaced, nebulae-brained, with stretched face
Space is dark and empty, but we laugh when they tell us
Because where there are supernovas there is stardust.
published by Jersey Devil Press

1.     What inspired you to write this poem?

I have always been interested in speculative and satirical elements of literature and this one came to me one night, maybe around 3 AM, while I was thinking about what thrill-seeking would be like in the age of space exploration. It probably helped that I was listening to an obscure band called The Hillbilly Hellcats at the time, and their song “Hillbillies on Speed” was playing. I wrote this poem entirely from the heart while listening to that song on loop. It wasn’t until it was published that I realized I had written a sonnet.

2.     What do you like about this poem?

In addition to the heartfelt sentiment, the structure and timing of the words and ideas keeps this wild and playful poem from being too far out there. I think that’s important when you get experimental with content—a classical structure helps it from feeling too experimental.  If your ideas tend toward the outlandish, ground the reader in familiar format.

3.     What would you change about this poem?

Good question.  In retrospect, I think I would pay more attention to rhythm, try to smooth out a few lines that are unwieldy to read aloud (like line 4). I would have given credit to the musicians who inspired me, as well (hopefully I’m doing that now!).  And most of all, I would have expanded, maybe written more sonnets.  SF is all about world-building, about the adventures of the narrator, and I have always felt drawn to the world created in this poem.

4.     Where, when, and how often do you write?

My writing patterns are irregular, and I have been writing a lot of poetry lately while procrastinating on life. Mostly I write when I’m at home, late at night, in isolation, while listening to strange music, because there is a certain phantasmagoric feeling that comes over me when everyone else is in bed, the world is asleep, stars are twinkling, and it’s just me and the witches.  

5.     What poetry books are you reading right now?

There are several poetry contests that offer free subscriptions with contest entries, and I have been reading the copies they send (The Greensboro Review, Gulf Coast, etc.).  Rattle publications have been my primary reading material, however, and I think the Rattle editor, Timothy Green, is fighting the good fight to keep literature both balanced and innovative, so I try to stay up to date and be immersed in Rattle’s material (The Last Mastodon is a wonderful chapbook they recently published). Fingers crossed that I one day get published there!