Psst. The goblins are calling.
And they’re offering fruit. Well, poems—but that’s fruit for the soul, right?
Since 2006, Goblin Fruit, edited by Amal El-Mohtar and Jessica Wick, has been offering a delectable selection of fantasy and folklore poems—every quarter. (Full disclosure: I’ve been published in Goblin Fruit in the past and will be appearing there in the future, mostly because I love the zine so much I desperately wanted to be in it.) The poems offer little snippets of beauty and fantasy, magic and fairy tale, anguish and joy, love and hate. Nearly all of them are very very good, and those that aren’t are better.
Goblin Fruit was not, of course, the first or last zine to focus exclusively on speculative poetry—but in an industry more renowned for short lived zines, its record of producing six years of issue after issue of undiminished quality is more than impressive. Please forgive me while I gush a bit more.
Too often, when I start talking about poetry, I find people’s faces shifting to a look of alarm, as if they are about to be dragged back to painful memories of being force-fed poems in school or other less dreadful places. They have memories of poems and poetry as dull and distant.
Not these poems.
These poems are delightful gems for people who love fairy tale, fantasy and language. Some are twists on familiar fairy tales. Others look at the more obscure fairy tales. Still others create new mythos entirely. Some tell a complete story in a few terse lines. Others focus on only one moment of a fairy tale or myth, and a few use myth and fairy tale to illustrate contemporary concerns. Some poems wrestle with myth and fairy tale; others accept it, but point out the consequences.
Which is not to say that the poems displayed here are not also, well, poems. They are that, too. All sorts of poems appear here: tiny verses, long sagas, formal poems, free verse. Told in striking, sometimes fierce language, they also run a gamut of emotions: funny, heartbreaking, searing, healing. Sometimes the poems’ narrators are human. Sometimes they are fairies. Sometimes they are monsters.
Sometimes it’s rather hard to tell.
Most of the poems reference traditional Western fairy tales and Greek/Roman myth, but an occasional poem peeks out beyond this, as in “Qasida of the Ferryman,” by Sofia Samatar in the most recent issue. The background illustrations change for each issue, adding to the zine’s magic. Most poems are chosen to fit the season in which they appear cold poems for winter; warm poems for summer; poems of fading for fall and renewal for spring. But each issue also offers at least one poem that resists this theme, at least a little, as if in protest against the changing of the seasons.
And although Goblin Fruit hasn’t quite made the leap to podcasting (yet) most of the poems can also be listened to as well as (or instead of) read on the screen. In a few of the more dramatic poems, more than one speaker contributes to the audio, helping to bring the poem alive, as in “Woman of Wood,” by Kathrin Köhler, again from the most recent issue.
I’m frankly finding myself at a loss for words to explain just how much I love this zine, but I can say, if you’ve never given speculative poetry a try, I definitely recommend sampling their archive, just to get a sense of the wonder these poems can bring. You might even see one or other Tor.com bloggers popping up in their archives.
When not chatting about children’s books here at Tor.com, Mari Ness has been known to write the occasional poem or two. Attempts to cure her of this flaw have so far completely failed.